In Daniel 7, four beasts come out of the sea. Ten horns grow out of the fourth.


Daniel 7In the vision of Daniel 7 four beasts (a lion, a bear, a leopard and a dreadful beast) come out of the sea (v3). The sea is the people of the world.  The beasts are not kings, but kingdoms that reign one after the other.  Ten horns grow out of the fourth beast-kingdom.  These horns exist simultaneously in time; after the fourth empire.

This is an introductory overview of Daniel 7.  The reader is advised to first read the entire chapter carefully.

The beasts are not kings, but kingdoms.

The four great beasts are “kings” (v17).  Verse 23 explains further that the “fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms”.  In other words, each of the four beasts is a “kingdom”, consisting of a series of kings.

The sea is the people of the world.

The beasts arise out of the sea (verse 3).  But verse 17 explains that these kings will “arise from the earth”.  The “sea” (v3) is therefore a symbol for the “earth”.  The “earth” is not the physical earth, but the peoples of the world.

The beast-kingdoms reign one after the other.

These kingdoms will not reign at the same time, but—like the metal-kingdoms of Daniel 2—they will reign one after the other.  This can be shown as follows:

The fourth beast “was different from all the beasts that were before it” (verse 7).

The fourth beast will devour the “whole earth” (verse 23), which leaves no place for other beasts at the same time.

The words “after this” in verses 6 and 7, explaining the sequence of beasts, confirms that the beasts will follow one after the other.

The beasts are the same kingdoms as in Daniel 2.

The man of Daniel 2
The man of Daniel 2

It is generally agreed among commentators that the four beast-kingdoms in Daniel 7 are the same as the four metal-kingdoms in Daniel 2.  (See the discussion of Daniel 2.)  This is confirmed as follows:

Four: There are four metals in the vision of Daniel 2 and there are also four beasts in Daniel 7.

Successive:  As discussed, both the metals in Daniel 2 and the beasts in Daniel 7 represent successive kingdoms.

Fourth Kingdom:  The phrase “fourth kingdom” is applied to both the fourth metal-kingdom (2:40) and to the fourth beast-kingdom (7:23).

Eternal: Both series of kingdoms are followed by the eternal kingdom (2:44; 7:24-27).

It is therefore concluded that the four metal-kingdoms in Daniel 2 are the same as the four beast-kingdoms in Daniel 7.  The first beast-kingdom is therefore the same as the gold kingdom of Daniel 2, namely the Babylonian Empire.

The Horns are the same as the Divided Kingdom.

The fourth beast has ten horns (7:7).  These are explained as ten kings that will arise “out of” the fourth beast (7:24).  The following shows that these ten horns are the same as the divided kingdom in Daniel 2:

The 10 horn-kings of Daniel 7 to
The divided kingdom of Daniel 2:

Both are a multitude of kings.
By calling it a “divided kingdom” (2:41), Daniel 2 indicates that, during the fifth phase, there will not be a supreme king, but many kings.  The horns in Daniel 7 also consist of many kings (7:8; 8:20-22).

Both are related to the fourth empire.
In Daniel 2 the fourth kingdom is represented by legs of iron.  This is followed by the feet representing a divided kingdom “of iron and … clay” (2:33).  This divided kingdom is related to the fourth empire because it contains the same metal (iron).  In Daniel 7 the fourth kingdom is represented as a dreadful beast.  The horns are similarly related to this beast because they come “out of” this fourth kingdom.

Both continue until the sixth or eternal kingdom. 
Both the divided kingdom and the horns are followed by the eternal kingdom: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed” (2:44, compare 7:24-27).

These parallels indicate that the horns are equivalent to the divided kingdom of Daniel 2.

Daniel 2 and 7 compared

The visions in Daniel 2 and 7 are therefore parallel:

Daniel 2 
1. Head of fine gold
2. Breast and its arms of silver
3. Belly and its thighs of bronze
4. Legs of iron
5. Feet of iron and clay 
6. Everlasting kingdom
   Daniel 7
= Lion
= Bear
= Leopard
= Dreadful Beast
= Horns
= Everlasting dominion

The horns follow after the fourth empire.

Critical scholars propose that the horn-kings rule one after the other during the fourth empire:

The most prominent character in Daniel 7 is not any of the beasts nor any of the 10 horns, but actually the evil 11th horn that comes up among the 10 horns.  Most of the chapter is devoted to this anti-God character.  In the view of critical scholars this evil 11th horn is one of the series of kings in the fourth empire, namely Antiochus Epiphanes.

Ten horns of the beastIn contrast, it is proposed here that these ten kings, and therefore also the evil 11th horn, exist after the period of the fourth beast-kingdom has come to an end.  This is shown by the parallel to Daniel 2:

The divided kingdom in Daniel 2 follows after the fourth kingdom:  The time relationship is indicated by the five different body parts.  The head represents the first kingdom, the chest the second, the belly the third, the legs the fourth and the feet, which represent the divided kingdom, are the fifth.  The feet “partly of iron and partly of clay” in Daniel 2 therefore exist after the iron legs, not at the same time as the iron legs.

Since the horns in Daniel 7 are parallel to the divided kingdom, the horns follow after the fourth kingdom.  In other words, the horns are not individual kings of the fourth kingdom, but separate kingdoms that came about after the end of the fourth kingdom.  In Daniel 7 this time relationship is implied by the statement that ten kings will arise “out of” the fourth empire (7:24).

The ten kings exist at the same time.

The divided kingdom consists of a number kings that reign at the same time.  This is indicated by the title “divided kingdom” and by the statement, “they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another” (2:43).

Since the horns are the same as the divided kingdom, the ten kings also do not exist one after the other, but at the same time.  The following confirm this conclusion:

Among:  Although the eleventh horn will come up “after them” (7:24), Daniel saw it “among them” (7:8).  “Among” implies that the horns exist simultaneously.

Three:  The eleventh horn uproots three of the other horns (7:8).  This implies that the other 7 remain.

Daniel 8:  There are two other animals in Daniel with horns, and in both instances the horns represent kingdoms that exist at the same time (8:20-22):

The ram in Daniel 8 has two horns, the one representing the Medes of the Mede-Persian Empire; the other representing the Persians (8:20).  These two components existed at the same time.

The goat in Daniel 8 grows 4 horns, representing the four divisions of the Greek Empire, which existed at the same time.

Eleventh Horn

It has been shown above that the visions in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 represent the same six phases of human history.  The descriptions of the beasts in Daniel 7, such as heads and wings and horns, give more detail about the kingdoms in Daniel 2.  But the most important additional information in Daniel 7 is about an evil king that will reign during the time of the horns.  It is symbolized by an eleventh horn that “came up among them” and uproot three of the other horns (7:8).  When it comes up it is “little” (7:8), but later it becomes “larger … than its associates” (7:20).  Daniel 7 says more about this evil horn than about any of the other kingdoms or kings.  It persecutes the saints, blaspheme God, and intend to change times and law (7:25).

For an identification of the 11th horn, see Daniel’s Evil Horn – Summary.

The Daniel 2 vision divides world history into six successive ages.

The man of Daniel 2
The man of Daniel 2

The vision in Daniel 2 uses the statue of a man to symbolize the history from the time of Daniel to the return of Christ:

Its head of gold (2:32) is explained as king Nebuchadnezzar (2:38), and represents the Babylonian Empire.

Its breast of silver (2:32) is explained as “another kingdom inferior to” the Babylonian Empire (2:39), which will follow “after” the Babylonian Empire (2:39).

Its belly and thighs of bronze (2:32) is explained as “another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth” (2:39).

Its legs of iron (2:33) is “a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces” (2:40).

Its feet partly of iron and partly of clay (2:33) is “a divided kingdom” (2:41).  During each of the four successive kingdoms (2:37-40) there will be a supreme king over all nations.  But during the “divided kingdom” there will not be a supreme king.  During that time there will be many kingdoms and many kings.  Verse 43 confirms this by explaining that these kings will “combine with one another” through intermarriage, but unity will not be achieved.

Then “a stone was cut out without hands” (2:34).  “Without hands” is explained as “God of heaven will set up” (2:44).  It means supernatural (Mar. 14:58; Col. 2:11).  This stone completely destroys the image.  “Not a trace of them was found” (2:35).  “But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (2:35).  This is explained as a “kingdom which will never be destroyed” (2:44).  The parallel vision in Daniel 7 refers to an “everlasting kingdom” (7:27)—“the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come” (7:18).  This eternal kingdom will be on earth (2:35).

Although the first four kingdoms dominate one after the other, each of them continues to exist until the eternal kingdom is set up.  Only then do they all disappear without a trace (2:35).


The vision in Daniel 2 therefore divides the history of the world into six successive epochs.  The first is the Babylonian Empire and the last is the eternal kingdom:

1. Head of gold = Babylonian Empire (2:38)
2. Breast = Silver kingdom (2:39)
3. Belly and thighs = Bronze kingdom (2:39)
4. Legs = Iron kingdom (2:40)
5. Feet of iron and clay = Divided kingdom (2:41)
6. Great mountain = Eternal kingdom (2:44)

For a further identification of these kingdoms, see The four beasts of Daniel 7.

The Daniel 9 prophecy was received soon after Babylon fell. Where do we fit the 70 years of Babylonian rule in history?

The Daniel 9 prophecy was received in the year after Babylon was conquered by Cyrus (9:1).  Daniel knew that LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Babylon will rule for 70 years.  These 70 years were from 609 BC to 539 BC.  Daniel also knew that God promised to restore Israel to Jerusalem after those 70 years (Dan 9:2).  These things caused him to pray for His people and for Jerusalem.

Daniel reading the prophets

Daniel 9 opens with Daniel noticing that the LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Jerusalem will be desolated for a period of 70 years (Dan 9:2, compare Jer. 25:8-14; 29:10-14).  He then prayed earnestly and interceded with God concerning the tragic condition of His backslidden and disobedient people, and for the desolation of Jerusalem and the sanctuary (verses 3-19).  In this way the 70 years set the stage for Daniel’s prayer.

When did the 70 years start? 

Jeremiah wrote:

when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD” (Jer. 25:11, 12, compare v1)

The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received “in the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans” (Dan. 9:1).  It was, therefore, received soon after the Medo-Persian Empire took over the Chaldean (Babylonian) Empire.  The king of Babylon was already punished.  This means that the 70 years has already come to an end.  But when did it start?

Jerusalem was finally destroyed in BC 586.  However, that was not the start of Jeremiah’s 70 years.  The 70 years were not the period of Jerusalem’s desolation, but the period of Babylonian rule over Judah and the surrounding nations, as indicated by the following:

“I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon … against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them … these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jer. 25:9, 11).

“For thus says the LORD, When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place” (Jer. 29:10).

Judah came under the Babylonian heel in 605 BC (Daniel 1:1), but Babylon’s ruling of nations actually dates from the overthrow of Assyria a few years earlier.  After the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC (to the allied forces of the Medes and Babylonians), the Assyrian king Ashuruballit established his government at Harran. This city fell to the Babylonians in 610 BC, and Assyria was finally obliterated when Ashuruballit failed to recapture it in 609 BC.  Seventy years later—in 539 BC—Babylon herself was conquered by Cyrus.  It is therefore possible to count the seventy years from 609 BC to 539 BC.

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Historic-Messianic interpretation of Daniel 9 24-27; Concluding thoughts

The essence of the Daniel 9 24-27 prophecy is that, within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem, and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive.  While both the Liberal-critical and Dispensational interpretations of Daniel 9 24-27 effectively remove Jesus from the prophecy, in the historical-messianic interpretation the prophecy finds its fulfillment in the Christ-events 2000 years ago. Daniel 9 confirms that God knows the future precisely, conclusively proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah and affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible.

490 years
Seventy Weeks of years

To summarize the messianic-historical interpretation, the decree of Artaxerxes in 478/7 restored Jerusalem to the Jews.  In AD 26 or 27, 483 years later, Jesus was baptized.  Three or four years later, in AD 30 or 31, He was crucified.   Another approximately three or four years later, in AD 33 or 34, the exclusive role which Israel played in the plan of God came to an end.  The period from 26/27 to 33/34 is seven years, with the crucifixion “in the middle of” these seven years.  Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, after the end of the seventy sevens.

This interpretation has been dominant over the centuries, but has, in recent centuries, been replaced by the Liberal Critical and the Dispensational views of Daniel.

Daniel 9:24 Goals

The fulfilment of the goals is discussed in When will the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years, be fulfilled?  In summary:

The first two goals, namely “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins do not mean that a complete and utter end will be made of sin.  In the context of the prophecy these goals given to Israel to fulfill.  They were to show their loyalty to God when the Messiah appears.  But Israel failed.

According to the New Testament the third and fourth goals—“to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness”—were fulfilled by Christ’s death.

The fifth goal—“to seal up the vision and prophecy”—is understood as that the events of the final week, particularly the Cross, would validate the Old Testament promises of the coming Messiah.

The sixth goal— “to anoint the most Holy” —refers to heaven itself.  Christ’s death was a great victory over evil, and as we read in Revelation 5 and 12, Satan was cast out of heaven as a result (Rev. 12:5, 7-9).

A Good Fit

While objections can be raised against all four of the major interpretations of Daniel 9 24-27, the historical-messianic interpretation is not subject to the difficulties encountered by the other systems.  It recommends itself as the most adequate of the major interpretations.  The exact date of the crucifixion and of the end of the 490 years remains uncertain, but compared to the difficulties facing the other interpretations, the relative uncertainty of the chronology of the life of Christ and the events of the early church appears to be insignificant.

Reliability of Daniel

The essence of Daniel 9 24-27 is that, within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem (after the Babylonian captivity), and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive.  It is understandable that the Talmud places a curse on those who attempt to compute the seventy weeks of Daniel (Sanhedrin 97b (Soncino ed.), p. 659).

Liberal scholars suppose that Daniel was compiled in the second century BC, as history written in the form of prophecy, but the events predicted by Daniel 9 24-27 were fulfilled more than 100 years later.  Copies of Daniel have been available to the Qumran sect (Dead Sea Scrolls) more than 100 years before the crucifixion.  The accurate fulfill­ment of the prophecy is therefore compelling support for the argument that Daniel is real prophecy written in the 6th century BC.

It is an irrefutable fact that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his public ministry 483 years (69 weeks) after Artaxerxes’ first decree.  Furthermore, the specifications of the prophecy find exact and complete fulfillment in the Christ-events of 2000 years ago.  This prophecy particularly points to His death:

(1) The nature of that death—murdered (cut off)
(2) His experience in that death—abandoned and rejected (not for himself), and
(3) The results of His death—atonement and everlasting righteousness

Supports our faith

A person who accepts Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy is astounded by the mathematical exactness of the prophecy, received five hundred years prior to those tremendous events that changed the entire course of human history.  Daniel 9 24-27 confirms that God knows the future precisely.  It conclusively proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah.

It affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible when predicting future events.  This gives confidence that we will one day see God with our own eyes.  The things that we read about in the Bible are really true.  There is a wonderful future ahead of us.

Means to and end

Daniel did not pray for a messiah of for the goals in verse 24.  He prayed for Jerusalem and the temple.  But the prophecy includes a Messiah and the goals because that was Jerusalem’s purpose.  Jerusalem was to be rebuilt to receive the Messiah.  490 years were awarded to Israel to fulfill  the goals in 9:24 through the Messiah,.  Israel would be restored, but as a means to an end.  The Messiah was the means and the goals were the end.  To remove these goals from Israel and Jerusalem is to remove the reason for Israel’s election.

Israel failed

Daniel must have been very sad to hear that the Messiah would be killed and the city would again be destroyed.  In his prayer he confessed that the destruction of Jerusalem in his time was the result of disobedience.  He must have realized that the prophesied destruction would also be the result of more disobedience.  And there is no mention of another restoration or reconstruction in the prophecy.  The prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolation and destruction.

If the Jews did not confirm their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the persecution of His Spirit-filled representatives, but rather accepted Jesus after His death, history would have been very different.

Isaiah 53

The emphasis upon the Messiah and His experience ranks this passage alongside the other great Messianic prophecies of the OT that point to Him as the suffering servant of God (Ps 22. Isa. 53).  Daniel 9 24-27 complements Isaiah 53 by specifying when the Man of sorrow will arrive.  The following is an extract from Isaiah 53:

2 … He has no appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  3 He was despised and forsaken A man of sorrows … 5 He was pierced through for our transgressions … 6 … the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.  7 He was … afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth … 8 By oppression … He was taken away; … He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 … He was with a rich man in His death … He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 11  … the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. … He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

Consider some parallels between Daniel 9 24-27 and Isaiah 53:

In both the main character is “cut off”.  In Isaiah He is the man of sorrows (v3, 8).

Both refer to the atonement.  One of the goals of the seventy weeks is “to make atonement for iniquity” (v24) while “the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him” (Is. 53:6).  He Himself bore the sin of many (Is. 53:11).

In both this Person has a relationship with “the many”.  In Isaiah “the many” are justified (v11) and in Daniel He confirms a strong covenant with “the many” (v27).


There is no greater unfolding of the gospel provisions in all the prophetic Word than is revealed in Daniel 9 and in Isaiah 53.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 is precious because it sets forth Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice, made on Calvary 2000 years ago.   We are all sinners and do not deserve to live.  Through Him, through faith, we are justified from our sin.

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