Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts

Matthäus Merian the Elder

Matthäus Merian the Elder, Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts, 1630. Copperplate engraving.

Matthäus Merian the Elder (1593–1650) was born in Switzerland but later moved to Frankfurt, where he ran a publishing house. An accomplished geographer, he learned the art of copperplate engraving and applied his talents to producing city plans. In this work, Merian masterfully tells the story of Daniel’s apocalyptic vision (Dan 7): four terrible beasts come up from the sea spewing terror on earth. Then “one like a human being” (sometimes translated as “one like the Son of Man”) approaches God and is given authority to rule the earth. Later Christian interpreters took this to be a reference to Jesus Christ. Most scholars agree that the eagle-winged lion (far left) represents Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonia, and the other monsters represent the empires of the Medes, Persians, and Greeks.