9 Seven Heads and Ten Horns

In this chapter an attempt will be made to work out in more detail a theme that has already been briefly referred to — the sequence of kingdoms symbolised by seven heads and ten horns.

Think first of the four beasts of Daniel 7 — the lion, the bear, the four-headed leopard and the un-named fourth beast with ten horns. These beasts symbolise "kings" or political powers.

The beast of Revelation 13 (which is also the beast of Revelation 17) combines the characteristics of Daniel's four beasts. Thus:

Beast of Revelation 13

Daniel 7

Like a leopard ........

3rd beast

Feet like a bear ........

2nd beast

Mouth of a lion ........

1st beast

10 horns ........

4th beast

In view of these likenesses it is surely reasonable to conclude that the apocalyptic beast is a composite creature — all four beasts of Daniel 7 rolled into one, so to speak.

This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that the beast of Revelation has seven heads and ten horns, which is the sum of the heads and horns of Daniel's four beasts. Thus:









4th beast






Expressed as an equation:

7 heads + 10 horns = 7 heads + 10 horns.

It hardly needs repeating here that-it is only possible to see all the heads together when the beast is viewed over what, by human reckoning, is a long period of time. This protracted view may be compared to a very long photographic exposure that combines the details of several 'instant' pictures.

"Five are fallen"

Referring to a thought discussed earlier, the eighth head is one of the seven revived.1 But there are still problems. The one that concerns us now is: what is the meaning of this statement:

"... five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come" (Revelation 17:10)?

Five are fallen! Some have counted off five consecutive world powers in this way:

Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece.

This would mean that the sixth world power, Rome, answers to the expression "one is".

Although at first sight this explanation seems reasonable because, when the woman rode on the beast, the five named powers had come and gone, and the Roman power was indeed there, there is one serious objection. If the equation with Daniel 7 is valid — if the seven heads and ten horns of Revelation are the same as the seven heads and ten horns of Daniel 7 — then one has to start counting heads with Daniel's first beast, which represents Babylon. Another reason for beginning the count with Babylon instead of Egypt is because the times of the Gentiles began when Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon destroyed the kingdom of Judah.

Where then do we get if we start the count of heads with Babylon? The problem may be better appreciated if the beast/heads of Daniel are set out with the corresponding kingdoms:






Medo -Persia


• 4 leopard heads

4 Grecian kingdoms





4th beast

Roman empire

Five are fallen. Taking the kingdoms in order, this would mean the fall of Babylon, Medo-Persia and three of the four Grecian kingdoms; and it would imply the continuing existence of one Grecian kingdom. Yet in John's day all four Grecian kingdoms had disappeared like Babylon and Medo-Persia before them. "Six are fallen" would have seemed more appropriate.

The little horn of Daniel 8

The suggestion offered here is that the secret lies in the little horn of Daniel 8. Please note — Daniel 81

First a quick reminder of the main features of Daniel 8. The prophet sees a two-horned ram (representing Media and Persia — verse 20) being destroyed by a he-goat with one great horn (representing Grecia — verse 21). When the great horn of the he-goat is broken, four horns come up in its place. Verse 22 explains that the four horns represent the four divisions of the divided Grecian empire.

So to verses 9-12:

"And out of one of them [one of the four horns] came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised and prospered."

Before discussing how the 'little horn' prophecy of Daniel 8 can provide the answer to the 'five are fallen' problem, let us try to identify the power. The little horn comes out of one of the Grecian empires. Yet it is distinctive and different: it would not otherwise have been represented by a separate horn.

Some have thought that Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled this role. He was a king who emanated from the northern Grecian empire in the period between the Testaments and made an important contribution to the history of Israel by his hostility. Yet, as one of the Seleucids, he could be regarded as a representative of one of the divided Grecian empires rather than a separate power, symbolised by a separate horn.

Some have looked for a fulfilment in the Roman power. Because Rome insinuated itself into Grecian politics and, in a sense, developed from Greece, this explanation would seem to have something to commend it. However, the sheer size of the Roman power, and the fact that in Daniel 2 it is represented by a separate metal and in Daniel 7 by a separate beast, makes the little horn an inappropriate and inadequate symbol for this mighty world power. And in any case Rome did riot emerge as a power from only one of the divided Grecian empires.

Although Rome is not the little horn, she is very much involved. The reader is asked to consider the proposition that the little horn of Daniel 8 is a symbol of the power of Israel — Israel before and at the beginning of the Christian era, first supported and then dominated by Rome.

Even during the time of Israel's subjection to Rome, when her political strength was drastically reduced, she was a formidable power in the religious world. The crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, the stoning of Stephen, the persecuting campaign sponsored by the high priest and led by Saul of Tarsus, the vicious spoiling activities of the Jews of Thessalonica — these are examples of the implacable hostility of this vassal state to Christianity.

It was during the time of the divided Grecian empires, when Antiochus Epiphanes was trying to suppress the Jewish religion, that an independent state of Israel was born. The Hasmoneans — Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers — were the leaders of the revolt that brought independence to Israel.

Israel between the Testaments

For the benefit of those who may not be well acquainted with the history of Israel in the period between the Testaments, here is the briefest of brief summaries. We shall begin with a well-known historical landmark, and move rapidly into less familiar territory:

In response to the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia, many Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity and settled again in the land of Israel. Here their descendants remained throughout the duration ,of the Persian empire and the Grecian empire that followed. After the death of Alexander the Great, the Grecian Empire was divided into four parts — a part for each of Alexander's four generals. The two sections that most affected the fortunes of the Jews were those to the north and south of their land — the Syrian kingdom, ruled by the Seleucids, and the Egyptian kingdom ruled by the Ptolemies.

One of the northern kings, Antiochus Epiphanes, was very hostile to the Jewish people, and tried to destroy their religion. He tortured and killed many Jews, and plundered the temple, profaning it by sacrificing swine. His offensive and idolatrous innovations were courageously resisted, first by a priest named Mattathias, and then by his five sons. These men of the Hasmonean family (also called the Maccabees) led the nation in its fight for independence and freedom to worship God according to Jewish traditions. Brilliant leadership was provided by Judas Maccabaeus, and when he was killed, his brothers carried on the struggle, as a result of which the Jews gained control of Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Idumea and some territory to the east of Jordan.

Jonathan, Judas's brother "commenced the reign of the Priest-kings of the Hasmonean line".2 After Jonathan's death, his brother Simon assumed leadership and became high priest. Of him Josephus writes that "he set the people free from their slavery under the Macedonians, and permitted them to pay tribute no longer".3 Simon was followed by his son John Hyrcanus who, after a setback, threw off once again the Syrian yoke and "the Jewish kingdom reassumed its independence, which it maintained until it was compelled to acknowledge the Roman dominion — first under the Hasmonean dynasty, then under the house of Herod".4

John Hyrcanus was succeeded by his son Aristobulus who was, in turn, succeeded by his brother Alexander Janeus. The high principles of the first Hasmoneans were abandoned by Aristobulus and Alexander, and the Jewish priest-rulers became monsters of wickedness.

The involvement of Rome

One important feature of the history of the Maccabees was the involvement of the ascending power of Rome. First Judas and then his two brothers who succeeded him, Jonathan and Simon, enlisted the support of Rome in their struggles against the Seleucids. So also did Simon's successor, John Hyrcanus.

To continue our summary: the rivalry between Alexander's two sons (also named Hyrcanus and Aristobulus) weakened the kingdom, and the weakness was exploited by an Idumean named Anti-pater. He and his sons, who were in league with the Romans, involved themselves deeply in Jewish politics. Indeed, one of these sons, Herod ("the Great") married into the Hasmonean family and, by the appointment of Rome, was made king of Judea.

This brings us to New Testament times, and to a more familiar period of Jewish history.

Although there was a certain nobility about the first rulers of this Jewish kingdom (not found in their successors), it was not a divine kingdom. Remember Ezekiel's prophecy: "It shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him" (21: 27). Soon this Jewish state was to become notorious for its fanaticism and wickedness; and its diligent courtship of Rome was always a contemptible feature of this opportunist power. Like Ahaz, these Jews preferred the support of another nation to the help of God: and this was their undoing.5

When Israel struck out for independence from the oppression of the Seleucids, Rome promised to be a useful ally; when Rome herself posed as a threat to Jewish independence, the Jews became resentful; and when the Roman grip on Israel tightened, the Jews became fanatically opposed to Rome. Yet for all this they compromised contemptibly in manipulating the power of Rome in an attempt to destroy Christianity. In the language of Daniel 8, the little horn "cast down some ... of the stars. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host" (Daniel 8:10,11).

The ultimate irony of this extraordinary story is that the Romans, whose favour the Jews had so diligently sought, were the people who, in the end, destroyed the Jews.

Latter-day fulfilment

Notice that there is a "latter time of their kingdom" (Daniel 8: 23), and that at that time the power of the king shall be mighty (verse 24), and "he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand" (verse 25).

It is not always easy to distinguish between what applies to the first phase of the little horn's existence and what applies to the second; and in any event some of the prophetic details are frankly difficult to understand. However, some things are clear: there are two confrontations with the Prince (reminiscent of the two phases of the "enmity" of Genesis 3:15); and on the second occasion the little horn is destroyed.

From this it can be inferred:

1. That the last phase of the little horn of Daniel 8 is the same as the eighth head phase of the beast of Revelation 17 when the beast is destroyed by the "King of kings" (compare "Prince of princes" of Daniel 8).

2. That because neither Antiochus Epiphanes nor the Roman power has two confrontations with the Lord Jesus, of the kind described in Daniel 8, they do not fulfil the terms of the little horn prophecy and can be ruled out even more decisively.

"Five are fallen"

Back then to the words, "five are fallen". The suggestion is that these five kingdoms would be Babylon, Medo-Persia and three of the four Grecian divisions. The sixth head represents the Jewish kingdom that had its roots in one of the divisions of the Grecian empire and that drew its power from Rome. Whereas the Grecian empires as such fell, never to rise again, one of them survived in the sense that it was represented by the little horn of Daniel 8.

The Jewish little horn had certainly been reduced to a vassal state when John wrote the Revelation (before A.D.70?),6 but it was not rendered impotent until A.D.70, and even then its destruction was not for ever: it has risen again. Here then, it is suggested, is the sixth head of Revelation 17, and in its latter-day opposition to the Prince of princes it becomes the eighth head.

The seventh head of Revelation 17 — the phase when the beast carries the woman — is of course the Roman phase.

An impressive parallel

There is an impressive parallel between the Jewish State founded by the Maccabees and the present State of Israel:

1. In each case the founders show extraordinary courage, determination and enterprise.

2. The hand of God is evident in both the exploits of the Maccabees and in the marvellous victories of modern Israel. Expositors of Daniel, recognising the help that Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers received from God, have understood the words of Daniel 11:34 ("they shall be holpen with a little help") to refer to this divine help.

3. But: neither State can be regarded as a divinely recognised kingdom because "it shall be no more until he come whose right it is".

4. Indeed, human pride is a feature of both States.

5. Each State has depended upon the support of human powers.

6. The State of Israel founded by the Maccabees rejected and tried to destroy the Prince whom God gave them. Likewise modern Israel rejects Christ, and will try to destroy him again at the next confrontation.

Two "little horn" prophecies

All this points to the conclusion that the little horn prophecies of Daniel 7 and Daniel 8 concern the same power. A tabulation of features common to both "little horn" prophecies may help to demonstrate that they are the same. "The king" of Daniel 11:36-45 is also included in the table of comparison.7 The fact that this king has some features in common with Daniel 7 and some in common with Daniel 8 strengthens the evidence that Daniel 7 and 8 describe the same power; and it also provides evidence that "the king" is yet another prophecy concerning the same power.

Daniel 7

Daniel 8

Daniel 11


The little horn

The little horn

"The king"


At the end

At the end

At the end

of the times

of the times

of the times

of the Gentiles

of the Gentiles

of the Gentiles


Very aggressive

Very aggressive

Very aggressive


"A look more stout than his fellows"

Magnifies himself

Magnifies himself


A mouth speaking

Speaks marvellous

great things against

things against the

the Most High

God of gods


Makes war against the saints and prevails

Destroys the holy people


Destroyed by the

Destroyed by the

Ancient of days

Prince of princes

Although the two "little horn" prophecies concern the same power, the contexts and emphases are different. Daniel 7 is concerned with the little horn's Roman connections, whereas Daniel 8 is concerned with its Greek connections. Daniel 7 is particularly interested in the relationship of this power to the ten kings in the latter days. Despite the fact that the little horn of Daniel 7 appears amongst the ten, it is manifestly not one of them and its intrusion is resented. Daniel 8, while making it clear that there are two phases to the "enmity" between the little horn and the Prince, gives more attention to tne first phase than does Daniel 7.

For reflection

The people of Israel play a vital role in God's purpose during the times of the Gentiles. But unless Israel is the little horn of Daniel 7 and 8, this vital role is almost ignored in Daniel's great prophecies concerning the nations. When one considers how much attention is given to detail in these prophecies concerning the other nations who are only playing a supporting role, so to speak, this omission will take some explaining — unless . . .

The dragon

The sixth head of Revelation 17 is therefore to be thought of as an essentially Jewish power that had its beginnings in,the days of the Grecian empire; that in its early days enjoyed the political sponsorship of Rome, and in its declining days drew its anti-Christian strength from Rome. Ultimately Rome, the seventh head, took over completely, destroying Israel and exerting its own peculiar influence on the Christian church.

A fuller picture of the sixth-head power is provided in Revelation 12. There it appears as a dragon.

Do not miss one striking point of similarity between the little horn of Daniel 8 and the dragon of Revelation 12 — a similarity that strengthens the conclusion that the same power is being described:

". . . it cast down some ... of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them"

"And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth"

(Daniel 8:10)

(Revelation 12:4)

The dragon symbolises a power hostile to God's people — a devouring power like the crocodiles of the Nile. The Jews who, with the Romans, tried to devour the infant church are appropriately symbolised by a dragon.

The dragon, that old serpent called the devil and satan: these very names and the narrative that accompanies them carry overtones of Eden, the Exodus and the massacre of the children at Bethlehem, and recall the deeds of the first serpent, of Pharaoh and of Herod.

At the end of the thousand years, when the dragon, that old serpent which is the devil and satan is released, this elemental hostility to God's purpose will be manifested in another arch-enemy.

References and Notes

1. Part 1, chapter 5,— The beast from the bottomless pit.

2. Milman, History of the Jews, Vol 2, page 16.

3. Antiquities bk.XIII, chapter VI (7).

4. Milman, History of the Jews, Vol. 2, page 33.

5. 2 Chronicles 28:16-21

6. H. A. Whittaker makes a good case for the early date of the Apocalypse in Revelation —A Biblical Approach, page 53.

7. See appendix II, page 214.

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