Daniel 7: The Fourth Beast, 10 Horns, Three Horns, and a Little Horn

This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here.

The previous post, “Rome Congratulated Israel on Becoming the Fourth Kingdom of Daniel 2,” concluded our study of Daniel 2. Daniel 7 features another prophetic dream, but this time it was Daniel himself who had “a dream and visions” (verse 1). Whereas Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue with four parts, Daniel saw four beasts. The meaning was the same, though, in that Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel were both shown four kingdoms. It’s the fourth beast (kingdom) which plays a significant role in the book of Revelation.

In our study of Daniel 2, a lot of space was given to the progression from the first kingdom to the fourth kingdom. Most of that information will not be repeated in this post, but we will instead focus primarily on the key details that Daniel was given about the fourth beast. Here is Daniel’s vision of the four beasts as recorded in Daniel 7:

Daniel 7:2-8, 11-12, 16-27 (Daniel’s Vision of Four Beasts)

Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.

“And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’

“After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.

“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words…

11 “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time…

16 I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kingdoms which arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’

19 “Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; 20 and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows.

21 “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.

23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. 25 He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.

26 ‘But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. 27 Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’

An Overview of the Four Beasts

In Daniel 7:3-8, Daniel saw four beasts which differed in how they appeared and what they represented. Since we already identified and discussed the four kingdoms in our study of Daniel 2, we will only briefly take note of what Daniel sees here:

[1] Babylon was the first beast that was like a lion with eagle’s wings. Babylon was also compared to a lion in Jeremiah 4:7, and compared to an eagle in Ezekiel 17:3, 12. Nebuchadnezzar was specifically called a lion in Jeremiah 50:17 (“Israel is like scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away. First the king of Assyria devoured him; now at last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones”).

The man with the heart who stood on two feet was most likely Nebuchadnezzar, who brought the Babylonian Empire to its highest height. His heart was “changed from that of a man” to “the heart of an animal” (Daniel 4:16) until he regained his reason (verse 36) and once again had a man’s heart. The plucking of the eagle’s wings could refer to the ceasing of Babylon’s conquests and/or to the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar and his temporary loss of the kingdom (Daniel 4:31-33).

[2] Medo-Persia was the second beast that was like a bear. The fact that it was raised up on one side likely refers to Persia being more dominant than Media. The three ribs could refer to three major territories that this empire conquered: Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.

[3] Greece/Macedonia was the third beast that was like a leopard with four wings of a bird on its back. The angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel that the male goat was the kingdom of Greece (Daniel 8:21). In Daniel 8:5-6 this goat is seen running with great speed and power (as leopards are known to do, and as Alexander the Great was also known to have done). Jerome (347-420 AD) said,

“Nothing was more swift than the conquest of Alexander, from Illyricum and the Adriatic sea, unto the Indian ocean, and the river Ganges; he rather ran through the world by victories than by battles, and in six years subdued part of Europe, all Asia even unto India” (John Gill’s Commentary on Daniel 7; 1746-1763).

This beast’s four heads represented the four generals (Cassander, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Lysimachus) who oversaw four parts of the kingdom (Daniel 8:22) after the death of Alexander the Great (verse 21).

[4] Israel was the fourth beast that was exceedingly strong and had huge iron teeth and 10 horns. As we saw in the last post, in 164 BC the Maccabees secured a great victory for Israel over Antiochus Epiphanes and the Macedonian kingdom. In 142 BC Israel was granted full independence, received congratulations from Rome, and its kingdom expanded. Israel enjoyed this independence for the next 79 years, and was then semi-autonomous all the way up to the Jewish-Roman War.

This beast would use its feet to devour, break in pieces, and trample residue. It was different than the three beasts that came before it. A little horn would come up among its 10 horns, would pluck out three of the first horns by the roots, and would have a mouth speaking pompous words.

The Fourth Beast

It’s this fourth beast that we will focus on in the rest of our study of Daniel 7. After this part of Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:1-8) he goes on to learn that the fourth beast would be a fourth kingdom, and it would be slain “and given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11, 23). He also learns that the little horn would make war against the saints and “intend to change times and the law” (Daniel 7:21, 24-25). The little horn would prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the Ancient of Days would come and the saints would possess the kingdom (Daniel 7:21-22, 25-27). We will examine these details one at a time.

Devouring, Breaking, and Trampling (Daniel 7:7)

The following excerpt comes from the Jewish Virtual Library regarding the strength of the Maccabees, known as “the Jewish Hammer,” in their victory over the Macedonians:

“The family of Mattathias became known as the Maccabees, from the Hebrew word for ‘hammer,’ because they were said to strike hammer blows against their enemies. Jews refer to the Maccabees, but the family is more commonly known as the Hasmoneans.

Like other rulers before him, Antiochus underestimated the will and strength of his Jewish adversaries and sent a small force to put down the rebellion. When that was annihilated, he led a more powerful army into battle only to be defeated. In 164 BCE, Jerusalem was recaptured by the Maccabees and the Temple purified, an event that gave birth to the holiday of Chanukah

It took more than two decades of fighting before the Maccabees forced the Seleucids to retreat from the Land of Israel. By this time Antiochus had died and his successor agreed to the Jews’ demand for independence. In the year 142 BCE, after more than 500 years of subjugation, the Jews were again masters of their own fate…

The kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon’s realm and Jewish life flourished.”

Wikipedia says that the Maccabees “reasserted the Jewish religion, partly by forced conversion” and “expanded the boundaries of Judea by conquest.” Likewise, I Maccabees 14:4-24 says that Simon Maccabee “took Joppe for a haven, and made an entrance to the isles of the sea. And he enlarged the bounds of his nation, and made himself master of the country… the fame of his glory was renowned even to the end of the earth.”

The Hasmonean kingdom of Israel apparently became oppressive to its subjects. In 63 BC Pompey the Great intervened in a Judean civil war, the Judean kingdom lost some of its land, became semi-autonomous, and some of the cities that had been under Judea became autonomous and formed the Decapolis. According to Wikipedia, “The people of the Decapolis cities welcomed Pompey as a liberator from the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom that had ruled much of the area.”

As we saw in our study of Daniel 2, by 40 BC Herod the Great, the Edomite founder of the Herodian Dynasty in Israel, was doing his own “devouring, breaking, and trampling.” We also saw how Herod divided the land of Israel into five parts, and how after his death his sons divided it further.

When we look at Revelation 13 and 17 later in this series, we will examine how the Zealots did all kinds of “devouring, breaking, and trampling” in the land, in Jerusalem, and in the temple complex.

“Different from All Other Kingdoms” (Daniel 7:7, 23)

How was Israel/Judea, as the fourth kingdom, different than the three kingdoms which preceded it? Like the other kingdoms, the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) expanded their territory by political conquest. Unlike the other kingdoms, the Hasmonean kingdom also expanded through forced religious conversions.

I would speculate, though, that the primary difference between Israel/Judea and the other kingdoms was its widespread religious authority. The high priesthood in Jerusalem held authority over Jews living in “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), some of whom would travel to Jerusalem three times a year for the major festivals (Passover, Weeks/Pentecost, and Tabernacles).

Ten Horns of the Beast (Daniel 7:7, 20, 24)

Daniel observes that the fourth beast had 10 horns (verse 7). In verse 20 Daniel asked about those 10 horns and it was revealed to him that they “are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom” (verse 24). Daniel wasn’t told anything else about those 10 horns, but in Revelation 17:12-17 John learns that they [1] would “receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast” [2] would “give their power and authority to the beast” [3] would make war with the Lamb but be overcome by the Lamb [4] would “hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire” [5] and would “give their kingdom to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled.” We’ll examine the 10 horns in more depth later in this series when we come to Revelation 17.

In a post I wrote in July 2016 I proposed that the 10 horns were the 10 Jewish generals who were given authority in December 66 AD. After the Jews defeated Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD, these generals were chosen to lead Israel in preparing for the inevitable war with Rome. In Wars 2.20.3-4 Josephus lists 10 generals and the territories they were to oversee in preparation for war with Rome:

1. Joseph, the son of Gorion (Governor of Jerusalem)
2. Ananus, the high priest (Governor of Jerusalem)
3. Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests (Idumaea)
4. Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest (Idumaea)
5. Niger of Perea, the then governor of Idumea (Idumaea)
6. Joseph, the son of Simon (Jericho)
7. Manasseh (Perea)
8. John, the Esscue (toparchy of Thamna; “Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus”)
9. John, the son of Matthias (toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene)
10. Josephus, the son of Matthias (both the Galilees; “Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command”)

An 11th Horn, “A Little Horn”

In the following sections we will see that Daniel was told a great deal about another character spoken of as “a little horn.” This person is not spoken of in the book of Revelation by this title, but only here in Daniel 7. According to Daniel 7:8, 21-22, 24-27 this person would:

[A] come up among the 10 horns
[B] pluck out three of the first horns
[C] have a mouth speaking pompous words
[D] make war against the saints
[E] be different than the other 10 horns
[F] “intend to change times and the law”
[G] and prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints.

A Little Horn Coming Up Among the 10 Horns (Daniel 7:8, 20-21, 24-26)

As Daniel was considering the 10 horns, he saw a little horn coming up among them. He had “eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words” (Daniel 7:8). Even though he was “little,” his “appearance was greater than his fellows” (Daniel 7:20). At this point, I believe this 11th horn was either Eleazar ben Simon (my top choice) or John Levi of Gischala (my second choice). Both were prominent leaders of the Zealots in Jerusalem during the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD. (We will take a closer look at the Zealots in our study of Revelation 13.)

If Eleazar was the 11th horn, how did he “come up among” the 10 horns? Josephus wrote in Wars 2.20.3 that it was surprising that Eleazar was not appointed as one of the 10 generals for the war because he was credited with leading the victory against Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD. However, the reason he was not chosen with the other 10 was because of his “tyrannical temper.” Still the people in Jerusalem submitted to his authority anyway:

“…for they did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office [as one of the 10 generals], although he had gotten into his possession the prey they had taken from the Romans, and the money they had taken from Cestius, together with a great part of the public treasures, because they saw he was of a tyrannical temper, and that his followers were, in their behavior, like guards about him. However, the want they were in of Eleazar’s money, and the subtle tricks used by him, brought all so about, that the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs.”

If John of Gischala was the 11th horn, how did he “come up among” the 10 horns? Around this same time, John tried to convince the authorities in Jerusalem to remove Josephus from the position of governor of the Galileans, and to give that position to him instead. Gischala was John Levi’s native city, but it was located in Galilee, and John was displeased when he found out that Josephus had been appointed as the governor of Galilee:

“But the hatred that John, the son of Levi, bore to me, grew now more violent, while he could not bear my prosperity with patience. So he proposed to himself, by all means possible, to make away with me; and built the walls of Gischala, which was the place of his nativity. He then sent his brother Simon, and Jonathan, the son of Sisenna, and about a hundred armed men, to Jerusalem, to Simon, the son of Gamaliel, in order to persuade him to induce the commonalty of Jerusalem to take from me the government over the Galileans, and to give their suffrages for conferring that authority upon him” (Life of Flavius Josephus, 38 [189]).

Soon afterward, though, Josephus had a dream in which he was told that John’s schemes against him would not succeed and that he would live to fight the Romans (Life, 42). John Levi eventually made it to Jerusalem in November 67 AD (Wars 4.2.4), and before long he was able to seize control of part of the city.

Three Horns Plucked Out by the Roots (Daniel 7:8, 20, 24)

Daniel 7:8 states that “before” (i.e. in front of) the little horn “three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots.” Verse 20 says that they “fell,” and verse 24 says that the little horn would “subdue” them.

Josephus records the deaths of three of the 10 generals at the hands of Eleazar ben Simon and John of Gischala. Their deaths took place during the Zealot siege of Jerusalem in February/March 68 AD:

[1] Ananus ben Ananus, governor of Jerusalem and a former high priest
[2] Niger of Perea
[3] Joseph ben Gorion.

Ananus was killed in early 68 AD when the Zealot leaders tricked the Idumeans into coming up to Jerusalem. This happened after John of Gischala first pretended to befriend Ananus, who was vehemently against the Zealots and their war agenda. Ananus was the leader of “the moderates,” those who took a moderate position regarding Rome. With false pretenses, John discussed plans with Ananus and then secretly passed them along to the other Zealot leaders. He also lied to the Zealots and claimed that Ananus was plotting to invite the Roman general Vespasian to take over Jerusalem (Wars 4.3.13-14).

So John convinced Eleazar ben Simon and the other Zealots to help him send a letter to the Idumeans (south of Judea), urging them to come up to Jerusalem and defend the city (Wars 4.4.1). An army of 20,000 Idumeans, led by four commanders (see Revelation 9:13-17) then came up to Jerusalem (Wars 4.4.2). Together with the Zealots, they killed thousands of people, filling the outer court of the temple with blood (Wars 4.5.1). They then specifically hunted down the high priests and killed Ananus, among others (Wars. 4.5.2).

When the Idumeans left Jerusalem, Josephus says that the Zealots thirsted “chiefly after the blood of valiant men, and men of good families; the one sort of which they destroyed out of envy, the other out of fear; for they thought their whole security lay in leaving no potent men alive; on which account they slew Gorion*, a person eminent in dignity, and on account of his family also… Nor did Niger of Peres escape their hands… so did they slay him” (Wars 4.6.1).

* The Gorion family was wealthy and well-known, and Nicodemus (John 3) was from this family. In Wars 2.17.10 Josephus specifically mentions “Gorion the son of Nicodemus.” In Wars 2.20.3 Josephus states that “Joseph the son of Gorion” was a governor of Jerusalem and one of the 10 generals for the war against Rome. A footnote for this section says,

“From this name of Joseph the son of Gorion, or Gorion the son of Joseph, as B. IV. ch. 3. sect. 9, one of the governors of Jerusalem, who was slain at the beginning of the tumults by the zealots…”

In Wars 4.3.9 we read about “Gorion the son of Josephus” growing tired of the Zealots and opposing them. The footnote above states that this is the same person. This makes sense because Josephus had already named Nicodemus as the actual father of Gorion. According to Martin Hengel, author of “The Zealots” (p. 367), Josephus had a habit of stating names differently and changing them around in his works.

Then in Wars 4.6.1 he speaks of the death of “Gorion” at the hands of the Zealots. As the footnote states, this must be the same Gorion (or “Joseph the son of Gorion”) mentioned just a little bit earlier in Wars 4.3.9.

In the October 1993 – January 1994 edition of the Jewish Quarterly Review (University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 189-208), Tal Ilan and Jonathan J. Price published an article titled “Seven Onomastic Problems in Josephus’ “Bellum Judaicum [Wars of the Jews]. Ilan and Price highlighted this same problem (#6) and seemed to come to the same conclusion.

So far, outside of Wars 4.6.1 and the footnote for Wars 2.20.3, I have been unable to find any other record of how or when Joseph ben Gorion, the governor of Jerusalem, died. If anyone has such information, please do share it. It would be good to have an even stronger confirmation that Josephus was speaking of the same person, despite the name getting switched around.

So, from the list of 10 generals (10 horns) above, the three horns who were killed by the Zealots were #1, #2, and #5. All three were killed in Jerusalem.

A Mouth Speaking Pompous Words (Daniel 7:8, 11, 20)

According to Daniel 7:8, 11, and 20, the little horn would speak “pompous words.” This likely corresponds with Revelation 13:5, which says that the beast “was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.” Concerning Eleazar ben Simon, Josephus says that he “was of a tyrannical temper” (Wars 2.20.3), but Josephus doesn’t seem to say much else about the way Eleazar spoke. Concerning John of Gischala, Josephus does include an example of John boasting and talking big. This was when John escaped from Gischala (of Galilee) when that city was captured by the Roman general Titus in November 67 AD:

“Now upon John’s entry into Jerusalem, the whole body of the people were in an uproar, and ten thousand of them crowded about every one of the fugitives that were come to them, and inquired of them what miseries had happened abroad, when their breath was so short, and hot, and quick, that of itself it declared the great distress they were in; yet did they talk big under their misfortunes, and pretended to say that they had not fled away from the Romans, but came thither in order to fight them with less hazard; for that it would be an unreasonable and a fruitless thing for them to expose themselves to desperate hazards about Gischala, and such weak cities, whereas they ought to lay up their weapons and their zeal, and reserve it for their metropolis. But when they related to them the taking of Gischala, and their decent departure, as they pretended, from that place, many of the people understood it to be no better than a flight; and especially when the people were told of those that were made captives, they were in great confusion, and guessed those things to be plain indications that they should be taken also. But for John, he was very little concerned for those whom he had left behind him, but went about among all the people, and persuaded them to go to war, by the hopes he gave them. He affirmed that the affairs of the Romans were in a weak condition, and extolled his own power. He also jested upon the ignorance of the unskillful, as if those Romans, although they should take to themselves wings, could never fly over the wall of Jerusalem, who found such great difficulties in taking the villages of Galilee, and had broken their engines of war against their walls.

These harangues of John’s corrupted a great part of the young men, and puffed them up for the war; but as to the more prudent part, and those in years, there was not a man of them but foresaw what was coming, and made lamentation on that account, as if the city was already undone; and in this confusion were the people” (Wars 4.3.1-2).

On this point, there seems to be more evidence pointing toward John as the little horn. As we consider all the points collectively, each reader can look at the evidence and decide whether Eleazar, John, or even another individual best fits the descriptions that Daniel was given.

In the next post, we will continue to look at Daniel 7 and other details concerning the little horn.


All of the posts in this series can be found at this page.


One thought on “Daniel 7: The Fourth Beast, 10 Horns, Three Horns, and a Little Horn

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