The four beasts

A camp laid out four-square

David Garman

In the early 1990’s two young men had an unusual conversation. They were childhood friends, attended the same church but eventually went separate their ways. They both grew up to become serious students of the Bible, each from a different perspective. So as providence would have it, they found themselves catching up on each other’s lives over a pizza lunch. Naturally, the conversation eventually turned to the Bible.

For some denominations it is not customary to discuss the book of Revelation, or the Old Testament. Of these two men, one of them studied the entire Bible. The other was primarily interested in the New Testament.

So, what are you studying now? First one then the other talked details of their current research. What came out of this exchange was a closer look into the four beasts of the book of Revelation. Not a common topic. While one would likely never consider it worthy of study, the other found the key to understanding it within the Old Testament. While one cited scripture from old and and new, the other held the concordance on him. It was stunning proof to one of the continued importance of the so-called Old Testament. Their meeting would be a good case study in the inter-connectivity of both testaments of the Bible.

With no Torah/Tanakh background, understanding the mysterious symbols in the New Testament would be difficult at best.

Four “beasts” are pictured in Y’shua’s revelation witnessed and documented by the apostle John. (At that time he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos.) In the Heavenly Throne Room there was seen one resembling a lion, a second like a calf (bullock), a third had a face like a man, and the fourth like a flying eagle. They each had six wings and were full of eyes. While in the book of Revelation the term, beast, may give a negative impression. Not so with these. Calling them Living Creatures is better suited in my opinion. These beings are in the Throne Room of the Creator of the Universe, giving glory and honor to Him, non-stop.

Now rewind the tape. Back, back, back to the Israelite exodus out of Egypt. After the epic sights and experiences, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the crossing itself, the giving of the Commandments, the people assemble at the foot of Mt Sinai. Keep going back to the days of Joseph in Egypt, the reunion of the sons of Jacob Israel, and the blessing over the tribes, at Jacob’s deathbed. Clear back to Genesis (49), the opposite end of the Bible.

Israel foresees in each of his sons a characteristic prophesied through these individual blessings. The resulting metaphor would influence the pictograph shown on each son’s standard or flag. Moses also blesses the individual tribes which may have had bearing in the final result (Deuteronomy 33).

After the Exodus, Israel was organized in a camp laid out four-square. The layout was oriented to the cardinal points of the compass, north, south, east and west. Each side had a lead tribe. Judah was the lead tribe of the east side, Issachar and Zebulun camped with him. On the south side, the lead tribe was Reuben, and the tribes with him were Simeon and Gad. Ephraim was the lead tribe of the west, his brother Manasseh and the tribe of Benjamin were camped with him. That leaves the north where Dan was the lead, with Asher and Naphtali. Don’t forget Levi, who was in the middle to minister in the Tabernacle (Numbers 2). Each of the four sides were under the flag or standard of the lead tribe.

We now have four prominent standards. We have four directions. We have a camp like the Holy City. We have a beginning reference to the four Living Creatures. What are the pictures on these lead standards?

End part 1

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