The Little Horn

The second half of Chapter 7 of Daniel interprets the vision of the “fourth Beast” with the “little horn” that concluded in a judgment scene and with the declaration that the figure “like a Son of Man” received “dominion” and kingship from the “Ancient of Days.” Consequently, “all peoples, races and tongues rendered homage to him. His dominion was an everlasting dominion, which should not pass away” - (Daniel 7:9-14).

Previously, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, received a dream that deeply troubled him, a vision of a “great image” with a head of gold. Likewise, Daniel found himself troubled at the end of his vision of the “four beasts ascending from the Sea.”

Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash
[Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash]

This notation about the two men being “
troubled” provide a verbal link between the two visions - (Daniel 2:1, 7:15-18).


In Daniel’s vision, the “Son of Man” received everlasting dominion over all the nations. In the interpretation, it was the “saints of the Most-High” who received sovereignty. In other words, the “Son of Man” represents the people of God.

The four “beasts” represent four kings and their respective kingdoms. In the vision, they were seen ascending “from the sea.” In the interpretation, the “kings” ascend “from the earth.”

Thus, the interpretation moves out of the symbolic world and into the realm of history. The “earth” represents the peoples from which the four kings and their kingdoms originate.

The Aramaic verb rendered “rise” in the passage is the same verb found in the earlier declaration by Daniel – It is God who “removes and RAISES UP kings.” Implicit in the present context is that the rise to prominence of these four kings was in accord with the purposes of God for His people - (Daniel 7:19-23).

Each “beast from the Sea” 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 horn. He “made war with the saints and prevailed against them.” And so, before the “saints” received the kingdom, they endured an assault by this malevolent figure.

The attack on the “saints” in the interpretation corresponds to the “fourth beast” of the vision that “trampled the remnant with its feet.” The “remnant” is identical to the “saints,” and this is confirmed in the next paragraph where the “little horn” speaks words “against the Most-High and wears 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” symbolizes a malevolent king who attempts to destroy the “saints” - the focus is on his efforts to annihilate 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 “horns” were “removed.” Whether the ten kings reigned concurrently or consecutively with one another is not stated.

This king “spoke words against the Most-High and wore out the saints,” and this statement expands on the earlier description of the “mouth speaking great things.” Words that “wear out” the “saints” suggest royal edicts intended to harm God’s people.

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 to exercise what was and is God’s prerogative alone - (Daniel 2:21).

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

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

The “time, times and part of a time” is not the duration of the reign of the “little horn,” but the period during which it persecutes the “saints.” That things and events were “given into his hand” signified that God remained in firm control of actual events.


  • (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 bent on destroying His people?

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 one like a “Son of Man.”

The chapter concludes with Daniel being troubled by his vision, indicating that he did not understand it. But he kept the matter in his heart, and this observation sets the stage for further illumination in the next vision in Chapter 8 - (Daniel 7:28).

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” with the golden head that was divided into four sections representing 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 progressively present a picture of the coming attack on the “saints,” their victory, and the establishment of God’s kingdom.

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