Babylon fell that night following the strange handwriting on the wall, when Belshazzar was killed in the raid and “Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old” (Dan.5:30-31). A new empire had emerged. The Medo-Persian empire reigned from about 454 BC to 333 BC. The voraciousness of the Medo-Persian empire was likened unto a bear:
5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
Although the Medes were first to rise in power, they were later superseded by the Persians, under the leadership of King Cyrus II. However, the two kingdoms united becoming a dual empire under the oversight of the Persian king. Thus, one king was more superior than the other. It is this that was being depicted as a bear raised on one side in Daniel 7:5.
An important thing to note about King Cyrus is that he is the one who proclaimed the liberation of the Jews for them to return to their homeland and rebuild their city. This proclamation can be found in Ezra 1:1-11. Now, a more astounding thing about the rise of Cyrus and his proclamation to rebuild Jerusalem is that the events had already been foretold by Isaiah some 150 years before. This was way before Cyrus existed! The Persian empire had also not yet been established. Isaiah had proclaimed, “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid” (Isa.44:28). God’s prophetic Word never fails. It had been spoken in the 7th century BC and got fulfilled another century later.
Now, what about the three ribs in the mouth of the bear? Clearly this was a picture of a bear coming from devouring prey. The “ribs” are held in firm grip “between the teeth of it” as they were subdued under its rule. “The three ribs”, notes Ellicott’s Commentary, “have been understood from the time of St. Hippolytus to mean three nations: the Babylonians, the Lydians, and the Egyptians.”
We shall look at more of what entailed the Medo-Persian empire in chapter 8 where Daniel experienced a detailed vision concerning the empire.