Representing two distinct Hebrew words, bihemah and chay, "cattle" and "living creature," or "animal." Beir means either collectively all cattle (Exodus 22:4; Psalm 78:48) or specially beasts of burden (Genesis 45:17). The "beheemah" answer to the hoofed animals. In Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 some principal divisions of the animal kingdom are given; the cloven footed, chewing the cud, ruminantia. The aim of Scripture is not natural science, but religion. Where system is needful for this, it is given simple and effective for the purposes of religion. If Scripture had given scientific definitions, they would have been irrelevant and even marring to the effect designed. The language is therefore phenomenal, i.e. according to appearances.
Thus the hare and hyrax have not the four stomachs common to ruminant animals, but they move the jaw in nibbling like the ruminants. The hare chews over again undigested food brought up from the aesophagus though not a genuine ruminant. The teeth of the rodentia grow during life, so that they necessarily have to be kept down by frequent grinding with the jaws; this looks like rumination. The hare and the coney represent really the rodentia; (the Coney, or Hyrax, though a pachyderm, is linked with the hare, because externally resembling the rodentia;) swine, pachydermata; "whatsoever goeth upon his paws," "all manner of beasts that go on all four," carnivora: only those of a limited district, and those at all possible to be used as food, are noticed, it is noteworthy that it is only "every animal of the field" that Jehovah brought to Adam to name, namely, animals in any way useful to man (Genesis 2:19), mainly the herbivora. (See CONEY; HYRAX.) Dominion is not specified as given over the (wild, savage) "beasts of the earth" (mainly carnivora), but only "over all the earth."
So in Psalm 8:7 man's dominion is over "the beasts of the field." Noah is not said to take into the ark beasts of the earth; but in Genesis 9:9-10, "beasts of the earth" are distinguished from "all that go out of the ark." Next to fear of a deluge was their fear of the beasts of the earth; but God assures men "the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth" (Genesis 9:2). Symbolically, man severed from God and resting on his own physical or intellectual strength, or material resources, is beastly and brutish. He is only manly when Godly, for man was made in the image of God. So Asaph describes himself, when envying the prosperous wicked," I was as a beast before Thee" (Psalm 73:22). "Man in honor (apart from God) abideth not, he is like the beasts that perish" (Psalm 49:12).
The multitude opposing Messiah are but so many "bulls" and "calves" to be stilled by His "rebuke" (Psalm 68:30). Those "that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, as natural brute beasts, are made only to be taken and destroyed" (2 Peter 2:12). So persecutors of Christians, as Paul's opponents at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32). The "beast" (Revelation 13; Revelation 15; Revelation 17; Revelation 19) is the combination of all these sensual, lawless, God opposing features. The four successive world empires are represented as beasts coming up out of the sea whereon the winds of heaven strove (Daniel 7). The kingdom of Messiah, on the contrary, is that of "the Son of MAN," supplanting utterly the former, and alone everlasting and world wide. In Revelation 4; 5, the four cherubic forms are not "beasts" (as KJV), but "living creatures" (zoa).
The "beast" (theerion) is literally the wild beast, untamed to the obedience of Christ and God (Romans 8:7). The "harlot" or apostate church (compare Revelation 12:1, etc., with Revelation 17:1, etc.; Isaiah 1:21) sits first on the beast, which again is explained as "seven mountains upon which she sitteth"; probably seven universal God-opposed empires (contrast Jeremiah 51:25 with Isaiah 2:2) of which the seven-hilled Rome is the prominent embodiment, namely, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Mede Persia, Greece, Rome (including the modern Latin kingdoms), and the Germano-Sclavonic empire.
The woman sitting on them is the church conformed to the world; therefore the instrument of her sin is retributively made the instrument of her punishment (Ezekiel 23; Jeremiah 2:19; Revelation 17:16). "The spirit of man," even as it normally ascends to God, whose image he bore, so at death "goeth upward"; and the spirit of the beast, even as its desires tend downward to merely temporal wants, "goeth downward" (Ecclesiastes 3:21). God warns against cruelty to the brute (Deuteronomy 22:6-7). He regarded the "much cattle" of Nineveh (Jonah 4:11). He commanded that they should be given the sabbath rest. As to the creature's final deliverance, see Romans 8:20-23.