Beasts, horns, and other symbols
horn Horns and Kings in Scripture

Horns mean power. No more, no less.


Many people think the "little horn" of Daniel is an individual. They think that if a beast is a kingdom, then a horn is a leader. But that interpretation goes against everything the Bible says. It also goes against common sense. A horn is the power of a horned beast, not its children.

Other relevant pages:

About the Beast

All about horns:

Caution with interpreting scripture
What modern prophets have said
Quick reference
The "little horn" of Daniel
The visions all cover the same topic
The little horn in Daniel 7 and Daniel 8.
It's not the Catholic Church

Abominations and desolations, and other topics

The abomination in Daniel
Antiochus IV is not the horn.

"70 weeks" in Daniel 9
Matthew 24
A British abomination
Daniel 11 and an abomination
The end of the world

Horns in prophecy

Parallel concepts in Daniel and Zechariah

The Hebrew word for horn is "qeren" (or in Daniel 7, its Aramaic equivalent). The key text - the only one where a horn is positively identified in terms of "last days" prophecy, is Zechariah 1:18-21. Here, horns are symbolic of the nations that scatter Israel. Daniel's little horn appears in a similar context and fulfils the same role. (Note:"carpenters" are elsewhere translated smiths. They are not the horns, but represent hammers, come to free Israel from the horns)

"Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.

And the Lord shewed me four carpenters. Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it."

Other examples of horns in a geographical sense

Horns as symbols of God's power

According to Strong's Hebrew lexicon, the first meaning of "horn" is as a symbol of power. The most common use is symbolic of the atoning power of God, with actual horns being sculpted on the temple altar. These are ritually daubed with blood, looking forward to the time that Jesus shed his blood to overcome the world.

A well known early use of the word horn is in Moses' blessing on the tribe of Ephraim in Deuteronomy 33. Ephraim is like a unicorn, and will push the people of the world together with his horns (Latter-day Saints see this as a reference to the gathering of Israel - missionary work).

The Lord is the horn of salvation (see 1 Samuel 2:10, Psalm 18:2, Luke 1:69). In Habbakuk 3:2-6, God has horns coming from his hand as his glory covered the heavens and he measures the earth. A bud from King David (the Messiah?) is referred to as a horn - see Psalm 132:17.

Horns in relation to individuals

The Lord is often said to exalt the horn of those he blesses. It seems that someone's horn is their power and prominent appearance, as the horn of a unicorn. See Psalm 92:10; 89:17, 24; 148:14

In 1 Samuel 2:1,10 - when elderly Hannah was given a son, she rejoices that the Lord has exalted both her horn and that of his anointed one. In Job 16:15, Job is at a low ebb - sews sackcloth on his skin, and defiles his horn in the dust.

This comes to almost every example of individuals being said to have horns - in every case, the horn simply refers to the power, or other favorable characteristic of the person, not the person themself.

Daniel 8:21 - Alexander as a horn

There is only one single example where a horn definitely applies to a mortal - the great horn of Greece, Alexander, in Daniel 8:21: "And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king." Judging by other Biblical usage, Alexander is called a horn, not because horns mean individual people, but because horns mean power. Alexander wielded unique power.

Daniel 8:21 is also further proof that "king" can also mean "kingdom". (Not that more proof is needed - in Daniel 7, whole empires are referred to as "kings")

Horns in the New Testament

All but one reference to horns in the New Testament are in Revelation. The exception is in Luke 1:69, where God is the horn of salvation in the house of David.

Revelation 17: seven kings and ten kings

This section shows that the book of Revelation means "king" in its widest sense of being a kingdom. In ancient times this was normal - even in Shakespeare's plays, we see people say "here comes France" or "here comes Gloucester" when a king or duke approached. The king and the kingdom were the same thing.

Revelation 17 refers to kings in two different contexts. The ten horns, familiar from the prophecies of Daniel, and seven kings that are not mentioned anywhere else.

the ten kings of Daniel

Daniel 7:24 and Revelation 17:12 refer to the ten horns as ten kings. Are these individuals or representative of kingdoms?

Daniel 2 sheds light on the matter

The first reference to the ten identifies them as divided Rome

The first reference to the ten, on which all subsequent references draw, is in Daniel 2 - the ten toes. In Daniel 2:40-44 we learn that the fourth kingdom (Rome) will be divided, and mingle with the seed of men, though it will not cleave (the Hebrew means "cling") to them.

The divisions are referred to as "kings", and exist simultaneously.

We are not looking at ten kings in sequence, one after the other. We are looking at ten divisions which exist at the same time:

Daniel 2:44 - "in the days of these kings" the kingdom of God will be established. This is not a gradual process, but a sudden one - the stone rolls down the mountain and breaks the toes and the statue in pieces. Elsewhere the judgements of God on the world are always treated as sudden, taking place over a short space of time.

Daniel 7:8 - the final horn plucks up three of the original horns. The "little horn" was first noticed AFTER the ten had appeared, then it subdued three of the ten. So all ten (or at least three) of the ten must have still existed, simultaneously.

Daniel's ten king prophecy was never (and can never be) fulfilled by individuals.

Consider what happens according to the prophecy, and see the absurdity of treating horns as individuals:

If that is what the scripture means, then the scripture is wrong. It did not happen. History defies the prophet - we may as well throw away the Bible as being a fraud. Rome did not break up all at the same time. The kingdom of God did not triumph within a few years of Rome's break up.

Perhaps this is all still in the future? If so, then we must believe that Rome is still united and strong. You can certainly argue that Rome is still a great influence (see the pages on the Beast and the Second beast). But is it really united? Does it exist in the same way that it did in ancient times? Did the fall of the Roman Empire never happen? How could Rome possibly break up more than it has done already? It cannot. The division into iron mixed with clay has already happened.

But did Daniel really mean individual kings? Or did he mean kings as representatives of kingdoms? As we saw from Revelation 17, they are only kings in the widest sense. In ancient times, the king represented or embodied the entire kingdom.

the bottom line

Horns are powers and kings represent kingdoms.


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