You are hereThe Little Horns of Daniel 7 and 8: Part II
The Little Horns of Daniel 7 and 8: Part II
by John Evans
More than three months have passed since I posted the first article in this series, and I apologize for the delay in returning to the subject of the “little” horns of Daniel 7 and 8. One factor in the delay was that the two individuals who posted comments to that first article favor an exegesis of the Book of Daniel that departs from the standard liberal-conservative dichotomy. Recognizing that their views are not unique, I resolved to broaden my writings on the Book of Daniel so as to take them into account. Carrying out this resolve has required that I do a little additional research.More than three months have passed since I posted the first article in this series, and I apologize for the delay in returning to the subject of the “little” horns of Daniel 7 and 8. One factor in the delay was that the two individuals who posted comments to that first article favor an exegesis of the Book of Daniel that departs from the standard liberal-conservative dichotomy. Recognizing that their views are not unique, I resolved to broaden my writings on the Book of Daniel so as to take them into account. Carrying out this resolve has required that I do a little additional research.Liberals hold that Daniel presents “prophecies” that are overwhelmingly after-the-fact which were either written from scratch or emended into final form in the second century BC and attributed to a fictitious author who had allegedly lived four centuries earlier. Conservatives claim that there was a genuine prophet Daniel who resided in Babylon in the sixth century BC, and they generally insist that the sequence of four great secular kingdoms in Daniel 2 and 7 is Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. For liberals, however, this sequence is almost always given as Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece. The commentators to my earlier article on the little horns adhere to a “moderately conservative” approach that rejects Rome as the fourth kingdom but nevertheless accepts Daniel of Babylon as a genuine prophet. This approach shares with liberal exegesis the belief that the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 and 7 cannot be the Roman Empire in either its historical form or some kind of revived form whose precise nature will become clear in the future. And, like liberals, these “moderate conservatives” claim that in all four visions of the visions half of Daniel (chapters 7 through 12), the great villain who appears there is the Seleucid (Greco-Syrian) king Antiochus IV, who died in 164/163 BC.
Although I agree with both liberals and those whom I label “moderate conservatives” that Antiochus IV makes a strong appearance in Daniel 8 and 11, I do not find him at all in Daniel 7 and 9. Furthermore, while I do find him in Daniel 11, I regard his appearance there as coming to an end with verse 32, and I do not find him in Daniel 12. I concede that there are problems with the position I hold, but I regard them as being small by comparison with the problems that I see with the alternatives offered by liberals and moderate conservatives.
My primary concern in this article, as in the earlier one, is the question of whether or not the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8, who is the eleventh horn to appear on the fourth beast of Daniel 7 (by uprooting three of the ten horns who preceded him) symbolizes the same individual as the horn that “started small” of Daniel 8:9 and “grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land” (NIV). Liberals and the moderately conservative commentators to my previous article contend that the two horns do indeed symbolize the same individual; i.e. Antiochus IV. I contend that while the horn of 8:9 is Antiochus IV, the horn of 7:8 belongs to the first century AD and must be identified in some way with the Roman Empire.
That the two horns resemble each other in some ways is obvious. Both are very mean characters, and both persecute people identified as “holy” (7:21,25; 8:10,12,13). Moreover, both Daniel 7 and Daniel 8 mention time periods associated with these persecutions that are arguably similar in duration. Daniel 7:25b states: “The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.” This is generally understood to mean a period of three and one-half years. Daniel 8:14 informs us that the period featuring the suspension of the daily sacrifice, “the rebellion that causes desolation,” and the surrender of the holy sanctuary referred to in 8:11-13 will require “2,300 evenings and mornings” until the sanctuary is reconsecrated. Because the daily religious services at the Temple began with an evening prayer and concluded with a morning one, the prevailing view about the “2,300 evenings and mornings” is that it represents a period of 1,150 days. This is somewhat shorter than three and one-half years, but it can be argued that the 1,150 days refer only to the period during which the daily sacrifices at the Temple were suspended and that the period of actual persecution by Antiochus IV was somewhat longer. Moreover, it can also be argued that the three and one-half years are not to be taken literally, but represent a symbolic period of turmoil. This is the opinion offered by Ernest C. Lucas, who writes: “As half of the perfect number, seven, it [the three and one-half years] denotes a short period of evil.”
Even if one concedes that the time periods of 7:25 and 8:14 are the same—and I do not make that concession—the depictions of the careers of the little horns of Daniel 7 and 8 differ substantially in detail. The standard liberal way of dealing with this fact is to assert that the differences are complementary rather than conflicting. For example, one can argue that the emergence of the little horn of Daniel 7 as the eleventh horn on the fourth beast does not conflict with the fact that the small horn of Daniel 8 appears to emerge from one of the four successor horns to the prominent horn representing Alexander the Great because the eleven horns are sequential while the four horns are contemporaneous. Accordingly, those who believe that the little horn of Daniel 7 is Antiochus IV commonly offer a list of “kings” that allows Antiochus IV to emerge as number eleven in the series. I suggest, however, that the very fact that those who do this can’t agree on just who the first ten “kings” are points to problems with this arrangement. Similar comments can be made about other attempts to demonstrate the complementary nature of the differences between the little horns.
When we extend the study of Daniel 7 and 8 beyond a narrow focus on the little horns, the notion that these chapters complement each other in supporting the liberal exegesis of Daniel becomes even more difficult to sustain. Consider, in particular, the third beast to emerge from the sea in Daniel 7, the beast that looks like a leopard with four heads and has “four wings like those of a bird” (7:6). It is difficult to avoid assigning major significance to the resemblance between this beast and the goat of Daniel 8, which arrives from the west moving so rapidly that its feet do not touch the ground (8:5) and then grows four prominent horns to replace the large horn (representing Alexander) that is broken off (8:8). Liberals, however, readily “overcome” this difficulty and typically give little attention to this resemblance. One of their rationalizations for doing so is that since horns symbolize kings in Daniel 8 and the little horn of Daniel 7 also appears to be a king, the heads of the leopard may have some other meaning. Thus, John J. Collins, the author of the most authoritative critical study of Daniel by a living scholar, takes the position that the four heads and even the four wings “can be taken to represent the four corners of the earth and thus the universality of the Persian Empire.” Another treatment is to respond to the fact that the four wings of the “leopard” obviously seem to symbolize the ability to travel at great speed by advancing the dubious claim that the OT portrays Cyrus the Great as a speedy conqueror. Let it suffice to say that the idea of assigning the “leopard’s” speed in Daniel 7 to Cyrus when Daniel 8:21 explicitly identifies the goat that symbolizes the “Greece” of Alexander as a creature exhibiting great speed hardly seems to be a winner. Finally, some liberals are willing to entertain the notion that the heads of the leopards symbolize kings but insist on identifying the four kings as the Persian rulers to which Daniel 11:2 refers; but this, too, is a demonstrably weak claim. It assumes a degree of ignorance of or indifference to Persian history on the part of Daniel’s author that is sharply at odds with both the external historical evidence and the internal evidence of the OT.
In light of the obvious difficulties involved in trying to reconcile the “Greek” sequence of Babylonia, Media, Persia, and Greece with Daniel 8, it is readily understandable that some scholars who find what they regard as insurmountable problems with the “Roman” sequence of Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome have sought an alternative. A commentator to my earlier article on the little horns of Daniel 7 and 8, Thomas Sachariassen, points out that the prominent biblical scholar Moses Stuart (1780-1852) and some later scholars, himself included, have favored a sequence of kingdoms consisting of Babylonia, Medo-Persia, the “Greece” of Alexander, and, as a substitute for Rome, the collection of Hellenistic kingdoms, originally four in number, which emerged from the fighting among Alexander’s generals (the diadochi) following his death. Although I consider this alternative to the Roman sequence to be highly implausible, I grant that it does overcome the shipwreck-sized obstacle of trying to equate the “leopard” of Daniel 7 with Persia.
But if the “leopard” symbolizes Alexander’s empire, what does that imply about the symbolism of the four heads in this alternative sequence? Whereas in the “Roman” sequence, the four heads symbolize the kingdoms that emerged from the dissolution of Alexander’s empire, this solution cannot be permitted in the moderately conservative or “double Greek” sequence because it is the fourth beast, not the third, that exhibits a fourfold division of authority. What Stuart suggested—and his contemporary equivalents agree—is that “The four heads, therefore, must be regarded as designating dominion in the four quarters of the world; just as, when the third dynasty is broken, it is said to be ‘scattered to the four winds of heaven,’ 11:4.” The four heads, therefore, symbolize wide geographical extent, but neither kings nor kingdoms.
Although it is certainly true that horns symbolize kings in both Daniel 7 and 8, this does not rule out the possibility that the heads of the “leopard” in Daniel 7 could symbolize kings as well, or, if not kings, then kingdoms. Recall that in Daniel 2:38b, Nebuchadnezzar is told in reference to the great statue: “You are that head of gold”; i.e. that the portion of the statue that symbolizes Babylonia also symbolizes him. You can also argue that if heads should be associated with kingdoms in Daniel 7 and 8 and horns represent individual kings, then the four heads of the “leopard” can be taken as symbolizing the four kingdoms into which Alexander’s empire dissolved while the four horns on the goat of Daniel 8 symbolize the diadochi. This interpretation reinforces the belief that Daniel 7 and 8 are indeed complementary, but in ways that support the Roman sequence, not the Greek sequence favored by liberals or the double Greek sequence favored by Moses Stuart and his moderately conservative successors.
Relevant to the differentiation between horns and heads in Daniel 7 and 8 is the fact that we are informed in 8:20 that the two-horned ram of 8:3-4 “represents the kings of Media and Persia.” Inasmuch as 8:3 tells us that both of the ram’s horns are long, but one (Persia) is longer than the other (Media) even though it grew up later, we must conclude that, at least in Daniel 8, horns can symbolize a succession of kings; i.e. a kingdom, as well as a single king. That this justifies the conclusion that heads can represent neither kings nor kingdoms in Daniel 7 is, I think, unwarranted. Again, we are told in Daniel 2 that the head of gold symbolizes a king. Moreover, Revelation 17 identifies both heads and horns as kings. To this can be added the observation that although the ram of Daniel 8 has two horns that represent different kingdoms, it functions as a single animal; i.e. a united kingdom composed of distinct but allied entities. I do not think it is too much to claim that the head of the ram symbolizes that united kingdom.
In the NIV translation upon which I rely in this article, Daniel 8:9 reads as follows: “Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land.” Since the preceding verse refers to the “four prominent horns that grew up toward the four winds of heaven,” it seems natural to assume that the antecedent of “of them” in 8:9 is the “four prominent horns” of 8:8. There is, however, a linguistic problem here that has led some to claim that the “them” refers instead to “the four winds of heaven.” The Hebrew for “of them” in 8:9 is masculine, but the Hebrew for “horns” in 8:8 is feminine. Since the Hebrew for “winds” is sometimes masculine, though it apparently is feminine in 8:8, it is possible to argue that the words “of them” in 8:9 refer to the four winds. Adding a further complication is the fact that if you translate the passage “toward the four winds of heaven” as “to the four winds of the heavens,” which is arguably correct, you can claim that “of them” refers to “heavens,” which has the advantage of being masculine in gender. You can then reinforce the argument that “of them” does not refer to the four horns by asserting that horns do not grow out of horns in Daniel 8. Since kings have commonly descended from other kings, however, this assertion cannot be taken seriously.
In evaluating the linguistic argument of the last paragraph, I am handicapped by the fact that I have never studied Hebrew and must therefore rely upon my judgment about whose scholarship merits my trust and confidence. In this particular instance, I feel confident that those who believe that “of them” refers to “horns” have the better argument. That argument rests on two points: (1) context and (2) the Hebrew of the OT does not consistently apply the grammatical rules pertaining to gender.
By claiming that “of them” refers to the four winds or even to the heavens, you can devise an argument that has the horn that started small of 8:9 come from one of the four corners of the earth or the “heavens” as opposed to emerging from one of the four horns that are the first horn’s successors. Doing this permits you to turn the little horn into someone other than Antiochus, perhaps even someone who has yet to make his appearance on earth. This line of argument appears to have its greatest appeal to historicists, who commonly insist that the 2,300 evenings and mornings of 8:14 must be understood as referring to a period of 2,300 years. This is not a line of argument that I find to be at all plausible. I cannot accept the application of the year equals a day approach to 8:14, and I find that there are too many historical resemblances of the small horn of Daniel 8 to Antiochus IV to allow the serious consideration of any alternative. The same point does not apply, however, to the little horn of Daniel 7.
The little horn of Daniel 7 is introduced in verse 8, which informs us that he uproots three of the ten horns who preceded him. The uprooted horns are mentioned again in 7:20, where they are described as falling before the “little” horn, which is now seen to be “more imposing than the others” and as possessing both eyes and “a mouth that spoke boastfully.” The final reference to the three horns appears in verse 24, which describes them as being subdued. Understandably, if you choose to seriously investigate the little horn’s identity, it is incumbent that you engage in speculation about the identity of the three uprooted/falling/subdued horns. It is easy, of course, to identify the “mouth that spoke boastfully” with Antiochus IV, but the same could be said of most rulers of ancient times! Much more challenging is to convincingly identify the three kings who fall before him.
Among those who are confident that the little horn of Daniel 7 is Antiochus IV, a popular “solution” to the three uprooted horns problem is to identify them as Seleucus IV (187-175), the older brother of Antiochus IV, and his sons Demetrius and Antiochus. Inasmuch as it was these three individuals who stood between Antiochus IV and the Seleucid throne just prior to the death of Seleucus IV, this may seem a logical solution, but it suffers from serious problems. In the first place, history records that Seleucus IV was murdered by Heliodorus, a would-be usurper who was the treasurer of Seleucus IV, and there seems to be no evidence to connect Antiochus IV to that crime. In the second place, although he was the actual heir to the throne when Seleucus IV died, Demetrius was being held as a political hostage in Rome when his father was murdered, and he never reigned as the Syrian king until after the death of Antiochus IV. Thus, if the three horns are to be regarded as actual rulers before the little horn attains power, Demetrius cannot qualify. In the third place, neither did Seleucus IV’s son Antiochus actually rule. It is true that he was in line for the throne before his uncle Antiochus IV, but his uncle ruled in his stead because he was a mere boy. Soon after Antiochus IV became regent, his nephew was murdered when he was conveniently absent from the Syrian capital, and since Demetrius was still being held as a hostage in Rome, Antiochus IV became king in his own right. Although most historians suspect Antiochus IV “took out a contract” on his nephew’s life, there is no clear proof that he did. In any event, the nephew never was officially recognized as Syria’s ruler. In short, Antiochus IV (who was originally named Mithradates) “uprooted” no more than one of the three individuals who stood between him and the Seleucid throne, and two of those three had not been recognized as kings by the time he officially gained the throne.
There are two more individuals who can, with some plausibility, be advanced as possible “candidates” for inclusion among the three uprooted horns: Heliodorus, the murderer of Seleucus IV; and Ptolemy VI Philometor, the official ruler of Egypt during most of the period 180-145 BC. Cleopatra I, the mother of Ptolemy VI, was the sister of Seleucus IV and asserted a claim to the Seleucid throne upon her brother’s death. That this claim was taken seriously is doubtful since her brother Mithradates/Antiochus quickly emerged as the regent for the younger Antiochus. One could argue that Heliodorus and Ptolemy VI were uprooted by the ascension to power of Antiochus IV, but the fact remains that neither had established actual control of the Seleucid throne before then.
With these five “candidates” to choose from, Moses Stuart opted for the trio of Heliodorus, Ptolemy VI, and Demetrius. It is true that Antiochus IV “uprooted” the claims of these three, especially if we assume, as Stuart did, that Demetrius was kept at Rome through the connivance of Antiochus IV. On the other hand, not one of the three established himself as king before Antiochus IV came to power. Moreover, is it not also true that Antiochus IV “uprooted” his nephew Antiochus? So even if we remove Seleucus IV from the list, we still find ourselves with four “candidates” to be fitted into three slots, and none of the four actually ruled as king before Antiochus IV did.
In going into such detail with regard to the three uprooted horns, I am trying to drive home the point that those who insist that Antiochus IV is the little horn of Daniel 7 lack the open and shut case whose existence they often presume. I am on a mission to demonstrate that their confidence is unwarranted. Given the fact that Daniel 7 refers to the three uprooted horns three times, I think it is reasonable to believe that three literally means three in this case. And if three means three, I suspect that ten means ten. I insist that liberals and moderate conservatives cannot provide us with a convincing demonstration of the identity of the three, and since the three are included in the ten, neither can they give us a convincing demonstration of the complete identity of the larger group.
In my mind’s ear I can now hear those in the liberal and moderate conservative camps insisting on knowing what solution I offer to the problem of identifying the succession of ten kings in which three are uprooted by the arrival of the little horn. I do have one that seems more plausible to me than what those in the Antiochus all-the-way camp offer. I start the ten with Pompey, who brought Judea into the Roman Empire in 63 BC. I concede that although Pompey gained some recognition from the Senate as Rome’s sole leader, he was never crowned emperor. For that matter, however, neither was Julius Caesar. From the perspective of the residents of Judea, which I consider determining here, Pompey was the first Roman ruler and Julius the second. Then followed, in order, Octavian/Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. Note that the number of names in this list of “kings” comes to ten. The last three, the successors to Nero, each reigned for a very short time. Galba came to power in June 68, and Vitellius was removed from the living by supporters of Vespasian in December 69. I think it is fair to say that these last three emperors were “uprooted” by the civil war that followed the death of Nero and ended with the establishment of the Flavian dynasty, consisting of Vespasian (69-79) and his sons Titus (79-81) and Domitian (81-96).
Sensible objections can be raised to my proposed solution to the challenge of identifying the ten kings of the fourth kingdom and the three who were “uprooted.” For one thing, the only one of the three short-term emperors who followed Nero who was directly toppled by Vespasian’s followers was Vitellius. I have no doubt, however, that some of the supporters of Vespasian were active in the toppling of Galba and Otho. Then there is the problem of the thirteen-year gap between the death of Julius in 44 BC and the crowning of Augustus in 31 BC. During most of that interval, Marc Antony was the dominant Roman figure in Judea, but he is not included in my list. For what it is worth, I note that in the first century AD, it was habitual practice to begin the enumeration of emperors with Julius. In defense of my position, I must also note that my candidates for the three uprooted kings positions actually were “kings.”
But what about the fact that Daniel 7:8 refers to the eleventh horn as “little”? Those who are certain that this “little horn” is the same person as the horn “which started small” of 8:9 place considerable emphasis upon the facts that both horns are portrayed as beginning their careers in diminutive condition and becoming much more imposing. This, they say, corresponds to the career of Antiochus IV, and I agree that it does. It is also the case, however, that Vespasian did not come from one of the leading families of Roman nobility. It was probably for that very reason that Nero felt it was safe to put him in charge of crushing the Jews. Thus, while Antiochus moved up from being a member of a royal family who was third in line for the Seleucid throne when his brother was ruling, Vespasian rose from almost complete obscurity to become the ruler of a much more powerful kingdom.
Daniel 7:20 informs us that the little horn ultimately comes to look “more imposing than the others.” To date, I have not encountered much commentary from liberal scholars about the point of being more imposing, and that makes me suspicious. In historical fact, Antiochus IV was not particularly imposing relative to his predecessors, and his father, Antiochus III “the Great,” was a far more imposing figure than he was. Stuart adroitly wiggled part way out of the “more imposing” problem by suggesting that the passage was not intended to refer to the power of Antiochus IV in an absolute sense, “but to the gradual strengthening the parties in favor of other claimants of the crown, and specially does it apply to his becoming altogether more formidable to the Jews, than any other of the Syrian princes.”
Whether or not Vespasian was “more imposing” than all previous Roman emperors is debatable, but he certainly has to be ranked very high among those emperors in terms of absolute power. I shall defer to authorities on Roman history as to just which one of the first dozen or so emperors was the most powerful, but from where I sit, Vespasian seems to be a strong contender. And if you disagree with Stuart’s “power over the Jews approach” to the interpretation of Daniel—and I emphatically do disagree with it—Vespasian looks a lot more imposing than Antiochus IV.
I hope that with the analysis presented in this article, I have helped convince at least a few readers that when you subject to detailed analysis the claims of those who insist that the little horns of Daniel 7 and Daniel 8 are both Antiochus IV, the validity of those claims, to put it gently, is subject to question. I intend to offer more analysis along these lines on this site in the future. I am nearing the end of the space that I allotted to myself for this particular article, but there is one more issue that I shall address at this time. That is the fact that a common tactic employed by those who wish to deny the validity of the Roman sequence is to insist that it cannot be valid because of one alleged shortcoming or another. This is an excellent tactic to use in debate because if your opponent’s position cannot possibly be correct, then yours must be—assuming, of course, there is no other alternative.
One of the favorite choices to be “an invalidating fact” that relegates the case for the Roman sequence to the scrapheap of discarded biblical interpretations is the claim that since Daniel 7 indicates that the four great beasts are all destroyed before the appearance of the “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” in 7:13, the fourth beast cannot be Rome, which, after all, survived the great events of the first century for quite some time. I concede that dealing satisfactorily with this argument is essential if one is to maintain the superiority of the Roman sequence to the two alternative sequences to which I have referred in this article. I could try to divert attention from this argument by blasting away at the obvious shortcomings of the alternatives, and it is tempting to do that. There are, for example, numerous problems with claiming either that Greece is the fourth kingdom or that the fourth kingdom consists of the diminished kingdoms established by the diadochi, such as trying to argue with a straight face that Greece is the kingdom of iron or that the lifespan of the third kingdom in the double Greek alternative was limited to the period of about ten years after Alexander’s destruction of the Persian Empire. I shall, however, save any additional such blasting away for future articles.
In my article “A Comment on Daniel 7:27” that appeared here in September of this year, I emphasized the point that the “everlasting kingdom” of that verse is not to be understood as a world political government, but as the world’s ultimate supreme religious and moral authority, which is to be recognized as such by those who exercise political dominion. It is, therefore, a mistake to claim that the destruction of the great statue of Daniel 2 indicates the sudden replacement of the political authority of the four kingdoms symbolized on the statue by the direct rule of divine authority. The statue’s destruction occurs when it is struck on its feet of iron and clay by a rock that is not cut out by human hands (v.34). I have suggested in my book on the four kingdoms of Daniel that the rock’s hitting the base of the statue “signals the relatively short period of the First Advent and the time of the Apostles that culminated in the events of AD 70,” and I see no reason to revise that assessment.
Because the destruction of the statue in Daniel 2 occurs abruptly, it is natural to assume that the prophecy of the rock points to a violent and sudden destruction of the four kingdoms. What is natural is not always what is correct, however—as I learned many years ago in constructing my golf swing—and it is a huge mistake to conclude that the collapse of the statue and the replacement of the four kingdoms in a spiritual sense is something that occurs rapidly. Instead, the destruction of the statue represents an example of prophetic abridgement required by the nature of the symbolism used. Again quoting myself, “Imagine . . . what the impact upon its intended audience would have been had Daniel 2 stated that the process of removing the debris and turning the rock into a mountain would extend for over 2,000 years!”
The fact that the rock strikes the statue on its feet of iron and clay suggests to me that it is the spiritual dimension of the fourth kingdom; i.e. Rome, which is destroyed first. We are not told how the statue falls; i.e. whether it topples in one direction or collapses upon itself. If the statue disintegrates in reverse order from the appearance of the kingdoms it symbolizes, the spiritual fall of Rome would be followed by the spiritual falls of Greece, Medo-Persia, and Babylonia, respectively. This, however, is mere speculation.
The statue of Daniel 2 is not immediately vaporized after being hit by the rock. Instead, it is broken into pieces—we don’t know how big—which become like chaff on the threshing floor. The chaff is then blown away by the wind (the march of history), and the rock becomes a huge mountain that fills the earth (v.35). I submit that the processes of the chaff being blow away and the rock becoming a mountain must be understood as requiring a long time. If that point is granted, is it not also conceivable that the collapse of the statue should be viewed as a process that requires a long time?
Daniel 2:44 begins as follows: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.” I understand the reference to “those kings” to mean that the first three kingdoms survive in some sense into the time of the fourth. That sense could be political to some extent, but I take it to be primarily spiritual and/or cultural. The survival of the first three kingdoms into the era of the fourth kingdom is made clear in Daniel 7:12, which, after the killing of the fourth beast in the preceding verse, tells us that the first three beasts had been allowed to live for while, though “stripped of their authority.”
But what, you may be wondering, does all this have to do with the little horn of Daniel 7? The answer is that if the Book of Daniel is genuinely prophetic, one would expect Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 to be consistent with each other. Therefore, if Daniel 2 allows the four kingdoms to survive, at least in a cultural/spiritual sense, past AD 70, it is logical to expect Daniel 7 to be compatible with such a survival.
It is frequently pointed out, however, that the struggle of the “saints” against the little horn described in the latter part of Daniel 7 indicates that the kingdom of the saints comes into being immediately upon the defeat of the little horn. Daniel 7:21-22 tell us that the little horn waged war against the saints and defeated them “until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High.” Verse 22 then ends with this passage: “the time came when they possessed the kingdom.” The usual construction of this ending passage is, I think, that the saints enter into possession immediately, but it is possible to read “the time came” as allowing the possibility that full possession to the degree indicated in verses 14 and 27 is not immediate. In my judgment, the criterion of consistency between Daniel 2 and 7 favors such an interpretation.
Against the line of interpretation of Daniel 7 that I am developing supposedly stand verses 11 and 12, which are generally understood, I suspect, as indicating that the four kingdoms symbolized by the beasts are all eliminated before the coming of the one like a son of man in verse 13. “How can Rome be the fourth kingdom?” ask advocates of the Greek and double Greek sequences, if the four kingdoms all disappear before this messianic individual arrives? And how can preterists support the Roman sequence in light of the fact that the Roman Empire survived long after AD 70?
I maintain that it is not at all clear that the correct exegesis of Daniel 7 requires us to view verses 11 and 12 as preceding verse 13 in time, and I think I have explained how the survival of the Roman Empire past AD 70 can be made compatible with preterist eschatology. Although Daniel 7 is generally thought of as consisting of a single vision that was supposedly given to Daniel in the first year of Belshazzar, the text actually refers to visions; i.e. the plural of vision. It could well be that 11 and 12 are the end of one part of the overall vision and verse 13 is the beginning of the next. It could also be that 11 and 12 should be understood as parenthetical passages that look ahead before getting back to the main part of the vision. In effect, Daniel may be saying, “by the way, here is what happened to the beasts” before returning to the point where he left off in the main narrative. If, nevertheless, you insist on having verses 11 and 12 precede verse 13 in time, you could interpret verse 13 as signifying the completion of the mission that began with the overthrow of the little horn described in the latter part of Daniel 7.
Finally, I must refer to the fact that it is commonly assumed that 7:11 indicates that the little horn and the fourth beast are destroyed at the same time. This is an interpretation that I dispute. Here is the complete verse: “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.” I submit that this terse description does not require the abandonment of the idea that the empire symbolized by the little horn outlasts him.
To be continued.
Ernest C. Lucas, Daniel, Apollos Old Testament Commentary, vol. 20, David W. Baker and Gordon J. Wenham, eds. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 194.
John J. Collins, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, Hermeneia—A Critical-Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1993), 151.
For a refutation of this claim, see John S. Evans, The Four Kingdoms of Daniel: A Defense of the “Roman” Sequence with AD 70 Fulfillment (Xulon Press, 2004), 147-51.
Thomas S. criticized me for making a similar statement in my recent planetpreterist.com article “A Comment on Daniel 7:27.” What I wrote there was that Stuart presented as the fourth kingdom “the collection of four Hellenic kingdoms that emerged after the death of Alexander in 323 BC.” Thomas S claims this is an error because Stuart instead “identified the fourth kingdom with the ‘rival diadochoi’.” He then adds a remark to the effect that it is therefore “no wonder” that I have problems with this (Stuart’s) alternative. I must say that this comment leaves me nonplussed. In the first place, the diadochi; i.e. the generals who fought over the succession to Alexander’s empire, founded the four kingdoms (initially) that succeeded Alexander. In the second place, while it is true that Stuart referred to “the dynasty” established by Alexander’s “generals” and to “the aspiring chiefs” of Alexander’s army who struggled for “kingly power,” it is also true that he stated that the four horns of the goat “denote four kingdoms” that emerged from the preceding ‘Grecian nation’ ruled by Alexander. Moses Stuart, Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Boston: Crocker and Brewer, 1850), 180, 181, 188. I have not found in Stuart a case where he uses the term “diadochoi,” but I have found other instances in which he makes clear references to the four horns as representing the four kingdoms that emerged from the dissolution of Alexander’s empire.
The analysis presented in this paragraph is largely derived from two Internet discussion group collections of everythingimportant.org, “a reform-minded Seventh Day Adventist forum”: “1844 is Obsolete 19th Century Historicism,” http://www.everythingimportant.org/viewtopic.php?t=537&start=75; and “Linguistic Studies Shared on Dan. 8:9-14,” http://everythingimportant.org/viewtopic.php?t=543.
Stuart, Daniel, 208-10. On the first two of these pages, the text mistakenly refers to Ptolemy VI as Ptolemy IV.
Stuart’s list begins with Seleucus I and has Seleucus IV as the seventh king. Then come Heliodorus, Ptolemy VI (incorrectly listed as Ptolemy IV), Demetrius I, and Antiochus IV as the eleventh king. Ibid., 208. Unlike Stuart, liberals frequently include Seleucus IV with the three uprooted kings, which means that he moves to eighth place. They then generally begin the list with Alexander as the first king. This won’t work for those who follow Stuart, however, because he made Alexander’s empire the third kingdom in the sequence and the Hellenistic kingdoms that succeeded him the fourth.
Evans, Four Kingdoms, 128.