Please Explain the Biblical Metaphors of Animals Used to Describe the Powers Prophesied to Fight and Destroy the Modern Tribes of Israel (Part 3)
In the last two Q&As, we discussed the biblical metaphors of fierce lions, destructive locusts, blazing-fast flying eagles, swift horses and quick leopards, when describing the future European power bloc; its political leader called the beast, the king of the North or King Jareb of Assyria; Europe’s military might, referred to as the Chaldeans and as Babylon; and Europe’s evolving powerful army and weaponry.
In this third and final installment, we will show further biblical comparisons between a future core Europe under German leadership, and devouring bears, savage wolves, tormenting scorpions and poisonous serpents and snakes.
Revelation 13:2 pictures the ancient Roman Empire and its ten European revivals as a “beast” with seven heads and ten horns. It states that the beast was “like a leopard,” but with further animal characteristics of a lion and a bear. We will recall that the Roman Empire (the beast) had emerged from previous powers, such as Babylon (pictured as a lion), Medo-Persia (pictured as a bear), and Greece (pictured as a leopard). Daniel 7:5 describes the bear in this way:
“And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear… And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’”
The final European revival of the Roman Empire will also appear “suddenly” and “devour” many enemies. God will allow and even use the modern revival to punish Israel:
“So I will be to them like a lion; Like a leopard by the road I will lurk; I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage; And there I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them” (Hosea 13:7-8). The Revised Standard Version continues: “I will destroy you, O Israel; who can help you… I have given you kings in my anger, and I have taken them away in my wrath” (verses 9 and 11).
God uses an interesting comparison between a bear deprived of her cubs and a foolish godless person: “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, Rather than a fool in his folly” (Proverbs 17:12). This comparison is quite adequate in our context, as God describes the modern nations of Israel and Juda as foolish (Jeremiah 4:22). Another comparison is found in Proverbs 28:15: “Like a roaring lion and a charging bear Is a wicked ruler over poor people.”
These metaphors and analogies are not accidental. They can be applied to the modern resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire, which will fight against self-righteous and ungodly Israel and Judah like a roaring lion and a raging bear robbed of her cubs. When describing the end time just prior to the return of Christ, God says in Amos 5:18-19:
“Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion [one characteristic of the revived Roman Empire], And a bear met him [another characteristic]! Or as though he went into the house, Leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him!” As we will discuss below in more detail, the serpent can refer to the modern Babylonian system, the “beast,” and also to Satan himself, who gives his power and authority to the beast (Revelation 13:4). God makes the point here that He does not prevent the terrible events and the brutal Gentile armies from proceeding during the Day of the Lord and that no one will escape if he is not protected by God.
We already quoted Jeremiah 5:6 in the first part of this series to the effect that no one will be safe from a lion and a leopard. But the passage adds the metaphor of another animal as well, beginning with verse 5: “… But these [the great men of Israel, same verse] have altogether broken the yoke And burst the bonds. Therefore a lion from the forest shall slay them, A wolf of the deserts shall destroy them; A leopard will watch over their cities. Everyone who goes out from there shall be torn in pieces, Because their transgressions are many. Their backslidings have increased. How shall I pardon you for this? Your children have forsaken Me And sworn by those who are not gods… Shall I not punish them for these things?… And shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?… For the house of Israel and the house of Judah Have dealt very treacherously with Me… They have lied about the LORD… And the prophets have become wind, For the word is not in them…” (Jeremiah 5:5-9, 11-13).
God announces in this passage that He will bring a mighty ancient nation against the people of Israel and Judah (verse 15)—the modern descendants of the ancient Assyrians and Chaldeans. He compares them with a lion from a forest, a wolf of the deserts, and a leopard, which will tear the people in pieces.
From the second part of our series, we are also familiar with the passage in Habakkuk 1:6-8, which describes the final rise of the modern Chaldeans—a bitter, hasty, terrible and dreadful nation. In verse 8, God says that they are “more fierce than evening wolves.”
So we see that God compares the final Babylonian/Chaldean system with fierce and destructive wolves which will tear the people in pieces… alluding to the kind of horrible nuclear and other modern weapons which will be used in the coming World War.
We also read that God will let this happen because modern Israel and Judah are described as devouring wolves (compare Zephaniah 3:3 and Ezekiel 22:27, referring to Jerusalem’s judges as wolves, leaving not a bone till morning, and also to Israel’s princes as wolves, tearing the prey, shedding blood, and destroying people). In Genesis 49:27, Benjamin (modern Norway and Iceland) is described as “a ravenous wolf,” who will devour the prey in the morning and who will divide the spoil at night. Benjamin’s fierceness is recorded in passages such as Judges 20:21, 25, when they fought against the other tribes of Israel, even though they were in the wrong.
Savage wolves are also used as metaphors for people who are opposed to God and His Church. Christ speaks about false prophets, coming to God’s people, as “ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15), and Paul warns the church at Ephesus that after his departure, savage wolves would come in among them, not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29). Christ said that those wolves would catch the unprotected and forsaken sheep and scatter them (John 10:12), because they trusted in uncaring hirelings and not in God’s true shepherds. Christ told His disciples that He would send them as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16). Especially in the end time, when the beast (the final revival of the Roman Empire as well as the final leader) will be manifested on earth, it will behave as a ravenous savage wolf against God’s people. While the world will admire, adore and even worship the beast, it will blaspheme God and persecute the saints (Revelation 13:6-8).
We already discussed in parts 1 and 2 the weapons used by the Babylonian system in Revelation 9, where they are compared with locusts which had teeth like lions’ teeth, and which were shaped like horses prepared for battle. Let’s notice how else these locusts are being described. We read in verses 3, 5 and 10:
“… And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power… Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man … They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months…”
In Ezekiel 2:6-8, the rebellious people of the modern house of Israel are being compared with scorpions: “And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house. You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like the rebellious house…”
We find the same thought conveyed here, as we saw earlier, when reviewing other metaphors of animal characteristics, that God will be using the Babylonian system to fight the modern house of Israel with weapons which are compared with scorpions, because the people of the house of Israel are compared with scorpions. (Technically, the events described in Revelation 9 occur AFTER the war between Europe and the houses of Israel and Judah, which had already ended in victory for Europe and in defeat for America, the United Kingdom and other English-speaking nations, but the European weapons remain the same.)
God tells His people—as He told Ezekiel—not to be afraid of scorpions and serpents, because He gives them the power to overcome them. He promises that nothing will by any means hurt them (Luke 10:19). Even though He speaks primarily about Satan and his demons in Luke 10:19 (note verses 17-18, 20), comparing them with scorpions and serpents, He also promises protection from the terrible Babylonian weapons, described as tails of scorpions which will hurt the people of this world for five months.
We have repeatedly alluded to the animal metaphor of serpents and poisonous snakes, when referring to the modern Babylonian system, and need to emphasize a few more details:
The end-time weapons of the Babylonian system are compared with serpents as well. (You may also notice that in Revelation 9:13-21, the modern weapons of the kings of the East are described, which are very similar to the weapons of the last European revival of the ancient Roman Empire: We read of horses with heads like the heads of lions; we are told that fire, smoke and brimstone come out of their mouths; and that the horses have tails like serpents with heads [military commanders], with which they do harm. As the Babylonian system uses these kinds of destructive weapons against the kings of the East, so the kings of the East retaliate with similar weapons—only, that their retaliation will be much more fierce and destructive than the initial European attack).
Jeremiah 8:17 reveals that God will send the European power bloc against modern Judah, describing Judah’s attackers in this way: “‘For behold, I will send serpents among you, Vipers which cannot be charmed, And they shall bite you,’ says the LORD.”
On occasion, God compares evil people, such as the Pharisees and scribes, with serpents and brood or offspring of vipers (Matthew 23:33). In addition, He speaks of their evil words in such way: “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:13-18). To an extent, Paul echoes here what is written in Psalm 140:3: “They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips.”
In Psalm 58:4, David compares the poison of a serpent and a deaf cobra, which has stopped its ears, will not heed and cannot be charmed or tamed, with the words and actions of evil persons with which they hurt and destroy.
Babylon’s modern weapons and warfare are also described in other prophecies, such as Jeremiah 46:22-24, where we read about Babylon’s attack on modern Egypt:
“‘Her noise shall go like a serpent, For they shall march with an army And come against her with axes, Like those who chop wood. They shall cut down her forest,’ says the LORD, ‘Though it cannot be searched, Because they are innumerable, And more numerous than grasshoppers. The daughter of Egypt shall be ashamed; She shall be delivered into the hand Of the people of the north [the king of the North and his armies].’”
Another very similar metaphor is applied to Babylon’s ancient and future war with Philistia or the Philistines (According to the Pulpit commentary, the Greeks called Philistia “Syria of the Philistines.” Today the Philistines can also be found among Palestinians and other violent groups in the Middle East):
“Do not rejoice, all you of Philistia, Because the rod that struck you is broken; For out of the serpent’s roots will come forth a viper, And its offspring will be a fiery flying serpent… Wail, O gate! Cry, O city! All you of Philistia are dissolved; For smoke will come from the north [the king of the North and his armies], And no one will be alone in his appointed times” [or, “without a straggler in the ranks,” or, “there are no deserters in those battalions”; compare New American Bible and New Jerusalem Bible] (Isaiah 14:29, 31).
The reference to a fiery flying serpent describes the swiftness of the attack and also modern weapons used by flying destructive machines, such as war helicopters and military airplanes. The destruction of “Philistia” is also vividly portrayed in Ezekiel 25:15, 17, when God will use modern Babylon for this purpose: “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Because the Philistines dealt vengefully and took vengeance with a spiteful heart, to destroy because of the old hatred,’ therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘…I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD…’”
Modern Dan (Ireland and part of Denmark) is also compared with a serpent by the way and a viper by the paths that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider shall fall backwards (Genesis 49:17), picturing Dan’s deceitful and mischievous actions. God adds that Dan must wait for His salvation (verse 18, Revised Standard Version), and it is remarkable that no one from the tribe of Dan will be among the 144,000 (compare Revelation 7:1-8), who are to be protected from the plagues during the Day of the Lord. In addition, a sober warning of the destructive effect of the consumption of too much alcohol can be found in Proverbs 23:32, comparing the consequences of excessive drinking with the bites of a serpent and the stings of a viper.
As mentioned before, the Bible pictures Satan the Devil as the serpent of old who deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9; 20:2). Ultimately, Satan is responsible for all violence and warfare. He is the destroyer of mankind. But God offers us protection and help in time of need, promising us this: “You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:13-16).
God protects us from human enemies and powers which want to do us harm. And He protects us from Satan and his demons, as we also read in Luke 10:17-20.
After Christ has returned to set up the rule of God on this planet, a transformation will take place. We mentioned this previously, but in conclusion, let us again review a marvelous and beautiful prophecy: Satan will be bound, unable to destroy or deceive, and incapable of influencing humans to go to war. And as animals will become peaceful and tame, so will be human powers—including real and figurative, symbolic fierce lions; destructive locusts; blazing-fast flying eagles, swift horses and quick leopards storming into battle; devouring bears; savage wolves; tormenting scorpions; and poisonous serpents and snakes.
Isaiah 11:6-8 tells us: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.”
Lead Writer: Norbert Link