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

Summary

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:

Compare:
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).

NEXT: Three alternative interpretations of the little horn of Daniel 8