The four winds of heaven churned up the Great Sea and out
came four beasts, each different from the others. “The first
was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle.” The
lion-eagle, or winged lion, represents the Babylonian Empire.
It is composed of the noblest of beasts and the noblest of
birds, just as this empire was symbolized by gold, the noblest
of metals, in the dream of dreams. Archaeology has uncovered
great winged lions that adorned Mesopotamian temples and
palaces. Nebuchadnezzar compared himself to a lion and his
armies to eagles, as does the Bible.
A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations
has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land.
Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant (Jeremiah
Israel was a scattered flock that lions had chased
away. The first to devour Israel was the king of Assyria;
the last to crush Judah’s bones was Nebuchadnezzar king of
Babylon (Jeremiah 50:17).
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set forth
an allegory and tell the house of Israel a parable. Say to
them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: A great eagle
with powerful wings, long feathers and full plumage of
varied colors came to Lebanon. Taking hold of the top of a
cedar, he broke off its topmost shoot and carried it away
to a land of merchants, where he planted it in a city of
traders’” (Ezekiel 17:1-4).
In this parable, the great winged eagle is King
Nebuchadnezzar. The top of a cedar is the House of David.
The topmost shoot is King Jehoiachin of Judah. A land of
merchants and a city of traders is Babylon. Therefore,
what happens in Daniel’s vision to the lion-eagle would
have shocked the prophet.
I watched until its wings were torn off and it was
lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a
man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
Interestingly, Mesopotamian art depicts animals
standing up and acting as men. However, this vision
pictures the conversion of a king that God viewed as a
beast! When the king humbled himself and raised his eyes
toward heaven, his sanity was restored, and he praised God
(Daniel 4:34). At that moment, the eagle wings (feathers
and claws) were plucked, and the king stood like a man and
was given the heart of a man—a saved man. This vision
confirmed to Daniel that his prayers were truly answered;
he would see his potentate, Nebuchadnezzar, in heaven.
The eagle wings denote the swiftness displayed by
Babylon in conquering the nations around it. The lion is
the king of beasts and the eagle is the king of birds; God
already had identified Nebuchadnezzar as “the king of
kings” (Daniel 2:37).
The plucking of the eagle wings from the lion and the
standing to its feet with a human heart pictures the king
turning from his former beastly treatment of his subjects
to a humane treatment at the end of his reign. Of course,
such action is attributable to his conversion.