In Daniel 7, four beasts and ten horns symbolize world empires.


Daniel 7In Daniel 7 a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a dreadful beast come out of the sea. The sea symbolizes the people of the world. The four beasts are not mere kings, but kingdoms that reign one after the other. They are the same as the four metal-kingdoms in Daniel 2. 

Ten horns grow out of the fourth beast-kingdom. They symbolize ten kings that will arise “out of” the fourth beast. These ten horns are the same as the divided kingdom in Daniel 2. They exist simultaneously in time; after the fourth empire.

The most important character in Daniel 7 is none of the above, but an eleventh horn becomes “larger … than its associates” (Dan 7:20). It persecutes the saints and blasphemes God.

This article is an introductory overview of Daniel 7.


The four great beasts are identified as “kings” (Dan 7:17). Daniel 7:23 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

The beasts arise out of the sea (verse 3). But Daniel 7:17 explains that these kings will “arise from the earth”. The “sea” (Dan 7:3), therefore, is a symbol for the “earth”. The “earth” is not the physical earth, but the peoples of the world.


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” (Dan 7:7).

The fourth beast will devour the “whole earth” (Dan 7:23), which leaves no place for other beasts at the same time.

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

Parallel to Daniel 2

The man of Daniel 2
The man of Daniel 2

For reasons such as the following, 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:

Four – In both, there are four kingdoms. In Daniel 2, there are four metals and in Daniel 7, there are four beasts.

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

        • The fourth beast “was different from all the beasts that were before it” (Dan 7:7).
        • After you (the Babylonian Empire) there will arise another kingdom” (Dan 2:39).

Fourth KingdomThe phrase “fourth kingdom” is applied to both the fourth metal-kingdom (Dan 2:40) and to the fourth beast-kingdom (Dan 7:23). And both of them are associated with “iron” (Dan 2:40; 7:7).

Divided Kingdom – In both Daniel 2 and 7, there is a fifth phase after the “fourth kingdom” that consists of a plurality of kings:

The fourth beast has ten horns (Dan 7:7-8). These are explained as ten kings that will arise “out of” the fourth beast (Dan 7:24; cf. Dan 8:20-22).

Some argue that the “divided kingdom” in Daniel 2 (Dan 2:41), represented by the two feet of the statue, is the same as the fourth kingdom, which is represented by the two legs. However, since the legs in Daniel 2 consists of only iron, while the feet consist of both iron and clay, the feet symbolize a separate fifth phase.

By referring to it as a “divided kingdom,” Daniel 2 indicates that, during the fifth phase, there will not be a supreme king, but more than one king ruling more than one kingdom.

Assuming that the toes of the statue in Daniel 2 (Dan 2:41) are 10 in number, both Daniel 2 and 7 use the number 10 to symbolize the plurality of “kings” in this phase.

Continue the fourth empire. – In both Daniel 2 and 7, that fifth phase is a continuation of the fourth:

In Daniel 7, that fifth phase is described as ten horns growing “out of” the fourth beast.

In Daniel 2, the metal in the fifth phase is the same as the metal of the fourth kingdom, namely iron (Dan 2:33).

These parallels indicate that the horns in Daniel 7 are equivalent to the divided kingdom of Daniel 2. Both are a fifth phase that is a continuation of the fourth but consists of multiple kingdoms.

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” (Dan 2:44, compare Dan 7:26-27).

For these reasons, the four metal-kingdoms in Daniel 2 are the same as the four beast-kingdoms in Daniel 7. In particular, the 10 (or 11) horns in Daniel 7 are parallel to the divided kingdom in Daniel 2. These kingdoms may be compared as follows:

Daniel 2 Daniel 7
Head of gold Lion with eagle wings
Breast and arms of silver Bear raised up on one side
Belly and thighs of bronze Leopard with four wings and four heads
Legs of iron Fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong
Feet of iron and clay At first, it had ten horns but an 11th horn came up among them (7:7-8)
Eternal kingdom Everlasting kingdom (7:26-27)

The first beast-kingdom is, therefore, the same as the gold kingdom of Daniel 2, namely the Babylonian Empire.

After the Fourth Empire

In the view of critical scholars, 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 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: This 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 (Dan 7:24).

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” (Dan 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” (Dan 7:8). “Among” implies that the horns exist simultaneously.

Three: The eleventh horn uproots three of the other horns (Dan 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 (Dan 8:20-22):

The ram in Daniel 8 has two horns, the one represents the Medes of the Mede-Persian Empire; the other represents the Persians (Dan 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 properties of the beasts in Daniel 7, such as heads 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 (Dan 7:8). When it comes up it is “little” (Dan 7:8), but later it becomes “larger … than its associates” (Dan 7:20). Daniel 7 says more about this evil horn than about any of the other kingdoms or kings. It persecutes the saints, blasphemes God, and intends to change times and law (Dan 7:25). This horn is identified in the next articles.

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