Who and What are the Beasts in the Bible? Part 1 of 2 :: By Michael Hile

The Beasts of the Earth

 “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:24-25).

There are many different types of “beasts” mentioned in the Bible. There are beasts (living creatures) in Heaven (Rev. 4:6-9), beasts that live on the earth (Gen. 1:24-25) and beasts that come up from the bottomless pit to torment men on the earth (Rev. 9:1-11, 11:7). On the earth, there are beasts that are used for work, especially in underdeveloped countries (horses, mules and oxen), beasts that are raised for food (cattle, hogs and chickens) and beasts that are domesticated for pets (dogs, cats and birds). 

There are wild beasts and creeping things that live in the forests, jungles and deserts that are carnivores (meat eaters), herbivores (plant eaters), omnivores (meat and plant eaters) and scavengers that eat dead and decaying organic matter (Gen. 1:30-31). There are also small, microscopic organisms, sometimes referred to as micro-beasts, such as germs, viruses, fungi and parasites that cause sickness, disease and death.

“So I looked, and behold, an ashen (pale greenish gray) horse [like a corpse, representing death and pestilence]; and its rider’s name was Death; and Hades (the realm of the dead) was following with him. They were given authority and power over a fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword and with famine and with plague [pestilence, disease] and by the wild beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:8).1

A Different Kind of Beast

There are several places in the prophetic scriptures where the term “beast” is used, but the description and context let us know that it is not talking about traditional animals and creatures that inhabit the earth (Gen. 2:19-20). The term “beast” was originally used to describe any animal (living organism) that was not a human being. Later, the word “beast” was expanded to describe “a person who is gross, brutal, vile, etc.” When a “beast” is described in the scriptures, and it is not an animal in the normal sense of the word, it is probably a king or ruler on the earth who acts like a “wild beast” and rules over his “beast kingdom.”

The word “beast” is used in apocalyptic writings, especially the books of Daniel and Revelation, to refer to kings and kingdoms whose behavior is more like a wild beast from the wilderness than a human being created in God’s image (Dan. 7:17, 23; Titus 1:12). Carnivorous animals that live in the wild are aggressive, vicious, and predatory in their quest for survival. Their beastly nature and habits are self-serving, and they have no regard for the life of other creatures. They prey upon other unsuspecting animals, sometimes to the point of devouring their own offspring.

Animals on the earth (beasts) do not know they are going to die. God has given them instincts to run, fly or swim in order to escape predators (beasts) that want to devour them. Somewhat resembling the voracious behavior of predatory animals, people in positions of high leadership (kings, dictators, despots) sometimes develop “delusions of grandeur,” thinking they are god-like, immune to death and not accountable to anyone, including God. They then begin to act like ravenous animals (beasts) and seek to destroy or maim anyone (even their own children) who might challenge their authority or get in the way of their quest for power and control.

A “beast” from God’s point of view, as described in Daniel and Revelation, is a person (and the kingdom he rules over) who has decided to live like a wild animal, who ignores and disregards God, takes advantage of other people, is only interested in themselves or those close to them, and does not regard the lives of other people, unless it furthers their own selfish, self-centered goals (Dan. 7:1-8:27; Rev. 13:1-18, 17:1-18, 19:11-21). Due to the temptations associated with their position, power, prestige, and possessions, it is rare that a “beast” leader sees the error of their way and turns to God for the redemption of their sins (1 Cor. 1:25-29). Rather, they operate as if there is no God and sometimes foolishly believe they are God (Psalm 14:1). The ultimate example of man thinking he is God will someday be exhibited by “the man of sin” (Antichrist).

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

Motivation, Methods and Manners of the Beasts

Beastly rulers do not usually implement their evil plans by themselves, but use surrogates and subordinates to carry out torture, mayhem and carnage in order to advance their position, power and possessions. Death camps (gulags—political labor camps) and the accompanying starvation, deprivation, medical experimentation and execution are many times the products of wicked “beast” rulers. Numerous means of torturing the victims of evil, “beast” leaders have been devised and specifically designed to induce “horror, dread and despair” to those who have challenged or opposed their wicked plans. Torture chambers have been around for centuries and were used frequently during the Middle Ages for religious, social and political persecution.

Historically, torture chambers were located in royal palaces, in castles of the nobility and even buildings belonging to the church. The medieval torture chamber was windowless and often built underground, was lit by a few candles and featured secret trap-doors which could be activated to throw victims into dark dungeons where they remained and eventually died.2  A notable torture chamber mentioned in the Bible was the lion’s den that the Medo-Persians maintained for their enemies (Dan. 6:16). The depravity (moral corruption; wickedness) of mankind towards other human beings appears to have no limit when evil men are given an excessive amount of money, power and authority.

Although dictators and despots have been around since the days of Noah (Nimrod, et al), the twentieth century saw more enslavement, torture and death under “beast” rulers than all the previous centuries combined. People who have accomplished much on this earth in business, sports, agriculture and other endeavors are sometimes inducted into a “Hall of Fame” for outstanding achievement in their chosen field. If recognition was given to the many evil “beast” rulers that have lived on the planet, and they were voted into a “Hall of Shame,” some of the top candidates who have tortured, maimed and killed the most people in the world include: 3

  • MAO ZEDONG, China (1949-76), Regime: Communist, Victims: Over 60 million
  • JOSEPH STALIN, Soviet Union (1929-53), Regime: Communist, Victims: c. 40 million
  • ADOLF HITLER, Germany (1933-45), Regime: Nazi dictatorship, Victims: c. 30 million
  • KING LEOPOLD II, Belgium (1886-1908), Regime: Colonial Empire in Congo, Victims: 8 million
  • HIDEKI TOJO, Japan (1941-45), Regime: Military dictatorship, Victims: 5 million
  • ISMAIL E. PASHA, Ottoman Turkey (1915-20), Regime: Military dictatorship, Victims: 2 million
  • POL POT, Cambodia (1975-79), Regime: Communist (Khmer Rouge), Victims: At least 1.7 million
  • KIM ILSUNG, North Korea (1948-94), Regime: Communist, Victims: At least 1.6 million
  • SADDAM HUSSEIN, Iraq (1979-2003), Regime: Ba’ath Party dictatorship, Victims: 600,000
  • JOSIP BROZ TITO, Yugoslavia (1945-80), Regime: Communist, Victims: 570,000

“Hell from beneath is excited about you, to meet you at your coming; It stirs up the dead for you, all the chief ones of the earth; It has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. They all shall speak and say to you: ‘Have you also become as weak as we? Have you become like us?  Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments; The maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you’” (Isa. 14:9-11).

Who are some of the Beasts?

In addition to the infamous bunch of “beast” leaders who created havoc (widespread destruction) during the twentieth century, many of today’s religious and political leaders, including kings, presidents, prime ministers, and high-level government officials are considered “beasts” from God’s perspective. Deception and intrigue are prevalent among today’s politicians and will be major traits of the Antichrist (Dan. 8:24-25, 11:21, 23, 27, 32).

Rich and famous people, terrorists, murderers, thieves, liars, and ordinary humans who forsake God and take advantage of others are also referred to as “beasts” in the scriptures (2 Peter 2:12; Jude 10; Titus 1:12).

Some beast-like personalities in the ancient world include King Nebuchadnezzar II (c. 634-562 BC—Daniel 3:1-30), Antiochus IV Epiphanes (c. 215-164 BC—1 Maccabees, Josephus), Herod the Great (c. 73-4 BC—Luke 1:5), Attila the Hun (c. 406-453 AD), Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227 AD) and many others. The four great beasts (7:3-7) described in Daniel’s dream/visions during the first year of Belshazzar’s reign (553 BC) are “four kings” (beast kings) “which shall arise out of the earth” and rule over their kingdoms (Dan. 7:17-23).

One example of God giving a “beast” king “a taste of his own medicine” and changing his thinking and behavior into that of a beast (insanity, madness), so that he acted like a beast and ate grass with the oxen (boanthropy) for seven years, was Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (4:1-37). Nebuchadnezzar was very fortunate, unlike many leaders with “beast” personalities, in that his punishment to eat grass and behave like an oxen for seven years caused him to awaken spiritually, experience God’s grace, perceive God’s sovereign rule over creation, realize that he had a haughty spirit and was full of pride, understand that his accomplishments were really God’s blessings and that he was not as important and autonomous as he once thought himself to be.

“And at the end of the time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.  All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’  At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Dan. 4:34-37).

Examples of Beast Kingdoms in the Bible

Daniel’s writings contain examples of dreams and visions he had about future “beast” kingdoms that would rise to power and battle with other “beast’ kingdoms for dominance. The vision Daniel received of a “ram” and “goat” during the third year of King Belshazzar’s rule (551 BC) was so traumatic emotionally that he fainted and was sick several days (Dan. 8:27). In Daniel’s vision, the Medo-Persian Empire was referred to as a “ram which had two horns,” and all the surrounding kingdoms were referred to as “beasts” (8:3-4, 20). The Grecian kingdom (8:21) of Alexander the Great was referred to as a “he goat with a notable horn between his eyes” (8:5-7). The implication is that God views kingdoms and nations in the world as “beasts” (8:4), and their rulers (horns) and accomplices are also considered “beasts” (Dan. 7:17; Rev. 13:3-8, 11-18).

One rare exception, revealed to Daniel, is the lion with eagle’s wings, whose wings were plucked from the lion (7:4). Although the lion is the major component of the first beast, the eagle’s wings are also part of the first beast. After the eagle’s wings are painfully removed from the lion, the offspring of the lion (the eagle) appears to become independent of the lion (a separate beast), is made to stand up like a man and is given a man’s heart. It remains an eagle, but its beast-like behavior changes, so that it acts like a human being rather than a beast.

Modern-day examples of world powers (beast kingdoms/nations) that have adopted animal symbols include England (lion), France (rooster), Spain (bull), Germany (black eagle), United States (bald eagle), Russia (bear) and China (dragon).

Rarely do kingdoms or nations give their citizens personal, political and religious freedom like the United States. Rather, most “beast kingdoms/nations” in the world today, that have socialist/communist/Islamic governments, use military force and intimidation to oppress and limit freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly, expression and access to a fair judicial system (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, et al).

Modern-Day Beast Leaders

Some famous dictator “beasts” in recent history include Lenin and Stalin (Russia), Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Hirohito (Japan), Castro (Cuba), Amin (Uganda), Hussein (Iraq), Gaddafi (Libya), Chavez (Venezuela), Kim Jong-un (North Korea) and many others. Two notorious examples of human “beasts” that will rise to power in the future at “the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4-13) are the Antichrist (First Beast—Rev. 13:4-8, 19:20) and the False Prophet (Second Beast—Rev. 13:11-18, 19:20).

“Beast” leaders have goals and behaviors that are self-serving, and they are usually arrogant, boastful, charismatic leaders with narcissist personalities. They frequently have statues and pictures of themselves placed in public places for everyone to see, and they control the news markets so that they receive positive media coverage. “Beast” leaders are good at misleading and deceiving those they rule over through carefully crafted lies, distortion and propaganda.

Sometimes, “Beast” leaders suffer violent and tragic deaths when the populace revolts or stronger “beast” nations remove them from power. Examples include Belshazzar (Babylon—Dan. 5:30-31), Adolf Hitler (Germany), Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania), Saddam Hussein (Iraq) and Muammar Gaddafi (Libya). God directly intervened to save the children of Israel when He took out the “beast-like” Pharaoh and his army by drowning them in the Red Sea following Israel’s exodus from Egypt (Exodus 14:5-15:19; Psalm 136:15).

“Beast” leaders sometimes come to power by overthrowing an existing government (coup d’ état). They many times solidify their power base through corrupt elections or by taking advantage of an ignorant voter population through control of the media and using various propaganda schemes. “Beast” leaders sometimes build their military strength until they feel confident enough to overtake their neighbor(s). “Beast” leaders, especially the more powerful and aggressive types, follow their “beast-like” nature and “devour” (conquer) other less powerful countries or provinces.

Before the advent of television and the modern-day news media, world leaders were not as concerned about their public image, since they could control what was released and what was withheld from public scrutiny. All that has changed with the 24-hour news cycle, where saying or doing the wrong thing can expose you to mockery or public (national and international) condemnation. It may seem unnatural to think of current world leaders as “beasts,” since they are usually seen in the public arena at international conferences with other “beast” leaders, wearing expensive clothing and taking advantage of photo opportunities.

Modern-Day “beast” leaders are frequently seen smiling and shaking hands with other world leaders, especially when the cameras are on. However, if you look at their actions off camera when no one is watching and observe how their citizens, religious groups and political opponents are treated when they are back in their home country, it is no wonder God refers to these ruthless, wicked tyrants as “beasts.”

To be continued in Part 2.