Two Little Horns?

The figure called the “Little Horn” figures prominently in the visions of the Book of Daniel. It is explicitly named in the visions of the “four beasts from the sea” and of the “Ram and the Goat.” It is reasonable to assume both visions portray the same figure. The historical references in the first vision are enigmatic, and in the second, they become explicit. But to understand the larger picture, we must begin with the dream of Nebuchadnezzar recorded in Chapter 2 since it provides the fourfold structure underlying the later visions.

And in Chapter 2, the Babylonian ruler saw a “great image” comprised of four sections each composed of different materials. The first part was the head of “fine gold,” the second, the arms and breast of “silver,” and so on.

Goat on Mountain - Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash
[Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash]

In the dream’s interpretation, the four sections of the image represent four kingdoms. Daniel identifies the first, the “
head of gold,” as Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of Babylon.

But the information provided about the image’s second and third sections is brief, and the description of the fourth kingdom is symbolic and enigmatic - (Daniel 2:40-45).


If the same fourfold structure is reflected in the vision of the “four beasts from the sea,” then the “fourth beast” is identical to the fourth kingdom in the Babylonian king’s dream, and there are verbal links between the fourth entities in each vision demonstrating this to be the case- (Daniel 7:7-8).

The interpretation of the “fourth beast” given to Daniel in Chapter 7 provides more details about this kingdom than the earlier dream of Nebuchadnezzar. For example, in Chapter 2, the fourth kingdom was given to “another people,” but in Chapter 7, it is given to the “people of the saints of the Most-High.”

In both visions, the fourth kingdom is characterized by “iron” and its ability to “break in pieces” and “trample” its victims.

Likewise, the vision of the “Goat with the prominent horn” in Chapter 8 and its interpretation have verbal connections to both the original dream of Nebuchadnezzar and the vision of the “fourth beast from the sea” in Chapter 7 - (Daniel 8:9-10, 8:21-25).

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the fourth kingdom was compared to iron and noted for its ability to “break in pieces and subdue all things, and as iron that crushes all these shall it break in pieces and crush.”

While we assume this refers to its ability to subdue other nations, the passage does not say who or what it “crushes.” However, the object of this kingdom’s wrath is indicated at the end of the interpretation when God judges the “kingdom” in an ironic fashion:

  • The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will its sovereignty be left to another people; but it will break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms…and the stone that was cut out of the mountain without hands broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold.”

Thus, in Chapter 2, the fourth kingdom that “broke in pieces” and “trampled” targeted the group identified as “another people,” the same group that inherited the “kingdom that will not be destroyed.”


Likewise, in chapters 7 and 8, the “Little Horn” uses its “iron teeth” to “break in pieces” and “trample the remnant” which is identified in both chapters as the “saints of the Most-High” (“The little horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them”).

Just as the last kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was crushed by the stone cut from the mountain “without hands,” so in Chapter 8, the “Little Horn,” the “king of fierce countenance,” is “broken without hands.”

There are too many verbal parallels to be coincidental. The same four kingdoms portrayed in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar are represented by the “four beasts from the sea.” Likewise, the links between the “Little Horn” of Chapter 7 and the “Little Horn” of Chapter 8 are too close not to conclude that the same figure is pictured in both visions.

The angel Gabriel’s interpretation of the “Goat with one prominent horn” is quite explicit. The “Goat” represents Greece, and its great “horn” is its first great king who overthrew the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians.” This could only be Alexander the Great, and the “Little Horn,” the “king of fierce countenance,” came out of one of the four Greek-Macedonian kingdoms that succeeded his empire.

Thus, in the Book of Daniel, there is only one “Little Horn” and all references to it refer to the same individual or entity that persecutes the “saints of the Most-High.”



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