25 May 2021

Little Horn - Interpretation

Storm Sea - Photo by NIKOLAOS AXELIS on Unspla
The second half of the seventh chapter interprets the vision of the “four beasts from the sea,” which concluded with a judgment scene when the one “like a Son of Man” approached the “Ancient of Days.” This human figure received the kingship from the divine throne: “All peoples, races and tongues should render homage to him; his dominion was an everlasting dominion, which should not pass away” - (Daniel 7:9-14). - [
Photo by NIKOLAOS AXELIS on Unsplash].

Previously, the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had received a dream that deeply troubled him, a vision of a “great image” with a head of gold. Likewise, now Daniel finds himself troubled at the end of his vision about the four “beasts ascending from the sea.” This is a verbal link between the two visions:
  • (Daniel 2:1) – “And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, and his spirit was troubled, and his sleep had gone from him.”
  • (Daniel 7:15-18) - “The spirit of me, Daniel, was troubled in the midst of the sheath, and the visions of my head terrified me. I drew near unto one of them who stood by and made exact enquiry of him concerning all this—so he told me, and, the interpretation of the things, made he known to me. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings who shall arise out of the earth; but the holy ones of the Highest shall receive the kingdom, and shall possess the kingdom for the age, yea, for the age of ages.”
In the vision, the “Son of Man” received everlasting dominion over all the nations. In the interpretation, it is the “saints of the Most-High” that received sovereignty. That is, the “Son of Man” represented the people of God.

The four “beasts” represented four kings and their respective kingdoms. In the vision, the “beasts” were ascending “from the sea.” In the interpretation, the “kings” ascended “from the earth.” Thus, the interpretation moves out of the symbolical world and into the realm of history. The “earth” represented the peoples from which the four kings and their kingdoms originated.

The Aramaic verb rendered “rise” is the same verb found in the earlier declaration by Daniel – It is God who “removes and raises up kings.” Implicit in this context is that their rise to prominence was in accord with the purposes of God for His people - (Daniel 2:20-21).
  • (Daniel 7:19-23) - “Then desired I to be sure concerning the fourth beast, which was diverse from all of them, exceeding terrible, whose teeth were iron, and his claws of bronze, he devoured, broke in pieces, and the residue with his feet he trampled; also concerning the ten horns, which were in his head, and the other, which came up and there fell from among them that were before it three, and this horn which had eyes and a mouth speaking great things, and his look was more proud than his fellows. I continued looking, when this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and justice was granted to the saints of the Highest, and the time arrived that the saints should possess the kingdom. Thus, he said, the fourth beast is a fourth kingdom which shall be in the earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour all the earth, and shall trample it down and break it in pieces.”
Each “beast” represented a “king” and “kingdom”, and each was set in contrast to the “saints of the most-high” who were destined to receive the everlasting kingdom.

The “little horn” appeared “stouter than its fellows,” that is, the “ten horns,” and it became the prominent one. He would “make war with the saints and prevail against them.” Before the term “saints” could receive the kingdom, they had to endure an assault by the “little horn.”

This attack on the “saints” corresponds to the “fourth beast” that “trampled the remnant with its feet,” the “remnant” being identical with the “saints.” This is confirmed in the next paragraph when the “little horn” spoke words “against the Most-High and wore out his saints.”
  • (Daniel 7:24-26) - “And the ten horns of that kingdom are ten kings who will arise, and another will arise after them, and he will be diverse from the former ones, and three kings will he cast down; and words against the Most High will he speak, and the holy ones of the Highest will he afflict, and will hope to change times and law, and they will be given into his hand for a time and times and the dividing of time, but Judgment will take its seat, and his dominion will they take away to destroy and make disappear to an end.
The “little horn” symbolized a malevolent king who attempted to destroy the “saints” - the focus is on his efforts to destroy the people of God. He prevailed over them “until the Ancient of Days arrived, and justice was granted for the saints.”

In the vision, the “ten horns” represented ten kings, but the “little horn” was distinct from them. He rose to prominence after three of the ten were “removed.” Whether the ten kings reigned concurrently or consecutively is not stated.

This king “spoke words against the Most-High and wore out the saints.” This statement expands on the earlier description of the “mouth speaking great things.” Words that “wear out” the “saints” suggest royal edicts designed to harm them.

The “little horn” attempted to “change times and the law” - It trespassed on divine territory. As Daniel previously declared, God alone “changes times and seasons.”  This ruler presumed on what is God’s prerogative alone - (Daniel 2:21).

Hourglass - Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Times” is a generic term and may refer to time delimited in any number of ways - weeks, months, years - (Aramaic, z’man). The Septuagint version uses the Greek word with kairos, meaning “season, set time.” Most likely in view were the annual feasts and rituals from the Levitical regulations, which the “little horn” attempted to change - (
Leviticus 23:1-4).

The “war” against the “saints” would last for a “time, times, and a dividing of time.” The sentence reads - “time (singular), times (plural), and part of a time.”  The last clause could mean any portion of a full “time,” however long or short that period was.

The “time, times and part of a time” was not the duration of the reign of the “little horn,” but the period during which it waged war against the “saints.” That things and events were “given into his hand” signified that God remained in firm control.
  • (Daniel 7:27) - “And the kingdom, and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under all the heavens shall be given to the people of the saints of the Highest, his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions unto him will render service, and show themselves obedient. Here is the end of the matter.”
The period of suffering would come to an end at the appointed time. In contrast to the kingdoms of the earth, the victory and sovereignty of the “saints” would endure forever. The “little horn” would lose its dominion and be “consumed and destroyed.”
The oppression of the “saints” was part of the necessary process for establishing the kingdom of God, otherwise, why would God “give” persecuting power to a malevolent ruler?
The interpretation ends with the “kingdom and dominion” given to the “people of the saints.” The kingdom was given to the one “likened unto a son of man,” then to the “saints.” Again, the “son of man” represented the saints of God.

In verse 27, the plural pronoun gives way to a singular - It is “his kingdom” and “all dominions will serve him”. The singular pronouns refer to the “son of man.”
  • (Daniel 7:28) - “As for me, Daniel, greatly did my thoughts terrify me, and my bright looks were changed upon me, but the matter—in mine own heart I kept.”
The chapter concluded with Daniel troubled by his vision, indicating he did not understand it. But he kept the matter in his heart. This sets the stage for the further illumination in the next vision - (Daniel 8:27 - “And I wondered at the vision, but none understood it”).

To this point, only the first “beast” can be identified with certainty - The lion-like figure represents Babylon. The beastly symbols for the next three regimes are enigmatic. The pattern of “four beasts” rising in succession indicates that the second, third and fourth kingdoms followed Babylon in historical sequence.

The several verbal links to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2 are important. The vision of the “four beasts from the sea” expands on the previous vision of the “great image” divided into four sections that represented four kingdoms. That same fourfold structure is present in chapter 7; the same four kingdoms are in view in both visions.

In the book of Daniel, the several visions are all connected and build on one another as they present a picture of a coming attack on the “saints” of God, their victory, and the establishment of the kingdom of God.

At this point, there as many questions as there are answers. The prophet himself did not yet under “the vision.”