The first was like a lion
That which rose up first, the kingdom of the Babylonians, as the Syriac version expresses it; or the Assyrian monarchy, founded by Nimrod, increased by the Assyrians, and brought to its height under Nebuchadnezzar by the Babylonians and Chaldeans; this is said to be like a "lion" for its strength and power, for its greatness, dignity, and majesty; the same with the head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar's dream; see ( Jeremiah 4:7 ) ( 50:17 ) : and had eagles' wings;
denoting the celerity and swiftness with which Nebuchadnezzar ran, or rather flew, over several kingdoms and countries, and added them to his empire; see ( Jeremiah 4:13 ) ( 48:40 ) ( 49:22 ) : and I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked;
it was retarded and stopped in its conquests; it could fly no further, nor make any new acquisitions; yea, it was deplumed and stripped of some of its dominions, the Medes and Persians falling off, and making war with it: and it was lifted up from the earth;
or, "with which it was lifted up from, the earth" F1; with which wings it raised itself up, and lifted itself above other kingdoms and nations; but now were plucked, and could not soar aloft as formerly; its glory and majesty, power and strength, were lessened, whole provinces revolting, as in the times of Evilmerodach, Neriglissar, and Belshazzar: and made stand upon the feet as a man;
it did not fly like an eagle as before, and overrun countries, and waste them; or go upon all four, as a beast; but stood on its feet, its two hinder legs, like a man; signifying that it abated, in the reigns of the above princes, of its strength and fierceness, and became more mild and tractable, and was reduced within bounds like other kingdoms: and a man's heart was given to it;
instead of a lion like heart, that was bold and intrepid, and feared nothing, it became weak and fearful, and timorous like the heart of man, especially in Belshazzar's time; not only when he saw the handwriting on the wall, to which Jacchiades refers this; but when he was so fearful of Cyrus that he shut himself up in Babylon, and durst not stir out to give him battle, as Xenophon
F2 relates; and when the city was taken, the Babylonians were obliged to deliver up their arms, employ themselves in tilling their fields, and to pay tribute to the Persians, and always salute them as their lords and masters, as the same historian F3 says; see ( Jeremiah 51:30 ) .
F1 (aera Nm tlyjnw) "quibus efferebatur e terra", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "per quas efferebatur supra terram", Grotius.
F2 Cyropaedia, l. 5. c. 10.
F3 Cyropaedia, l. 7. c. 24.