3. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
3. Et quatuor bestiae magnae prodibant e mari, diversae haec ab illa.
After Daniel had beheld these great commotions which were shaking the earth in different parts, another vision was offered to him. What has already been said concerning the troubled sea and the conflict of the winds, is extended to the four monarchies, concerning which we shall now treat. A certain preparation is intended when God offers to the eyes of his Prophet a turbulent sea produced by the conflict of the winds. Just as if he should say -- after these troubles others shall spring up; thus men will wait for peace and tranquillity in vain, for they must suffer under fresh agitation's. Now, the kind of trouble is expressed, by the words, four beasts proceed out of the sea. Hence that concussion, those storms, and that confused disturbance of the whole world through one kingdom succeeding to another. It can scarcely happen that any kingdom can perish without involving others in its ruin. A single edifice can scarcely fall without the crash being heard far and wide, and the earth seeming to gape at its overthrow. Then, what must happen when the most powerful monarchies so suddenly perish? Hence in this verse Daniel shows how the world is like a troubled sea, since violent changes among its empires were then at hand. The comparison of empires to beasts is easily explained. We know how God's glory and power are resplendent in all kingdoms, if they are rightly conducted after the law of equity. But since we often see the truth of what was said to Alexander, -- The greatest kingdoms are the greatest robberies, and very few absorb the whole power in a great empire, and exercise a cruel and excessive tyranny. Here the Prophet compares empires to great and savage beasts, of which he will afterwards treat. Now we understand the meaning of the words: and we may learn this lesson from what usually happens in the empires of the world; in themselves, as I have said, they are most beautiful reflections of the divine wisdom, virtue, and justice, although those who obtain supreme sway very rarely acknowledge themselves divinely created for the discharge of their office. As, therefore, kings are mostly tyrants, full of cruelty and barbarity, and forgetful of humanity, the Prophet marks this vice as springing from themselves and not from the sacred ordinance of God. Let us proceed, --