The four beasts and eleven horns of Daniel 7

The green blocks in the sections below are summaries. 


In Daniel 7, four animals, a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a dragon-like beast, come out of the sea. The sea symbolizes the people of the world. The four animals symbolize four successive empires.

Are four empires.

Daniel 7The four great beasts are identified as “kings” (Dan 7:17). However, Daniel 7:23 explains 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. Since each of these four kingdoms consists of a multitude of nations, this article prefers to refer to them as ’empires’.

Arise from the people of the world.

The beasts arise out of the sea (Dan 7:3) 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 refers to the peoples of the world.

Exist one after the other.

Like the metal kingdoms of Daniel 2, these empires will not reign simultaneously but one after the other. For example:

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


The fourth beast has ten horns, symbolizing ten kingdoms that will come out of the fourth empire, each consisting of a series of kings But the main character in Daniel 7 is the Antichrist, symbolized as the 11th horn that grows out of the fourth empire. It is small when it comes out but grows and eventually dominates the other kingdoms.

The fourth beast has ten horns (Dan 7:7-8), explained as ten kings that will arise “out of” the fourth beast (Dan 7:24; cf. Dan 8:20-22). Since ‘kings’ are equivalent to ‘kingdoms’ (Dan 7:17, 23), these ‘horns’ symbolize kingdoms, each consisting of a series of kings.

But the most important character and purpose of Daniel 7 is not one of these four empires or one of the ten horns, but the evil 11th horn that later comes up among the 10 horns (Dan 7:8). Daniel 7 allocates more space to this 11th horn than perhaps to all four animals and ten horns together. The only reason that Daniel describes the preceding four empires and ten kingdoms is to enable the reader to identify that 11th horn.

It uproots 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). It persecutes the saints, blasphemes God, and intends to change times and law (Dan 7:25).


The same Four Empires

The lion, bear, leopard, and dragon-like beast in Daniel 7 symbolize the same four kingdoms as the golden head, silver chest, bronze belly, and iron legs of the statue in Daniel 2.

For reasons such as the following, commentators generally agree that the four beast kingdoms in Daniel 7 are the same as the four metal kingdoms in Daniel 2:

The man of Daniel 2For the following reasons, Daniel 2 and 7 symbolize the same four empires:

    • In both, there are four empires. In Daniel 2, there are four metals and in Daniel 7, there are four beasts.
    • Both the metals in Daniel 2 and the beasts in Daniel 7 represent successive kingdoms. (See the discussion of Daniel 2.)
    • Both the fourth metal and the fourth animal are called the “fourth kingdom” (Dan 2:40; 7:23).
    • Both fourth kingdoms are associated with “iron” (Dan 2:40; 7:7).

The same Divided Kingdom

The ten horns in Daniel 7 symbolize the same period as the divided kingdom in Daniel 2, when the ‘world’ will be divided between many kingdoms.

By referring to it as a “divided kingdom” (Dan 2:33, 41), Daniel 2 indicates that, during this phase, there will not be one single supreme king, but several kings ruling different kingdoms.

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

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

Daniel 7 describes the fifth phase 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 continues the fourth but consists of multiple kingdoms.

The same Eternal Kingdom

In both chapters, the eternal kingdom ends the period of divided rule.

For example:

“In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed” (Dan 2:44, cf. 7:26-27).

Comparison Table

Since the four metal kingdoms in Daniel 2 are the same as the four beast kingdoms in Daniel 7, and since the horns in Daniel 7 are parallel to the divided kingdom in Daniel 2, the two visions can 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 A leopard with four wings and four heads
Legs of Iron The 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.
Eternal kingdom Everlasting Kingdom

Daniel 7 adds detail.

Since the two prophecies are one, the one explains the other.

For example:

Since the gold kingdom of Daniel 2 is the Babylonian Empire, the lion-kingdom in Daniel 7 is the same.

In Daniel 2, there is no indication of an evil power. The most important additional information in Daniel 7 is about an evil king who will reign during the time of the horns.


Eleven kings of the Greek empire

The academic consensus is that the 11 horns are 11 consecutive kings of the Greek Empire.

In the academic world, where the supernatural is not accepted, the consensus is that the Book of Daniel was written AFTER the predicted events that can be verified from secular history. In particular, Critical Scholars propose that the book was written during the reign of the Greek king Antiochus IV, whom they identify as the 11th horn of Daniel 7. To make Antiochus fit the prophecy, they:

Identify the fourth empire as Alexander’s Greek empire, and

Propose that the 11 horns of Daniel 7 symbolize 11 consecutive kings of the Greek empire. In other words, the kings rule one after the other during the fourth empire. The evil 11th horn, therefore, is the 11th of a series of kings.


The fourth is the Roman Empire.

Daniel 8 uses two animals as symbols for the Medo-Persian and Greek Empires. A comparison of these animals with the animals in Daniel 7 shows that the Greek Empire is the third animal in Daniel 7, not the fourth.

While Critical Scholars identify the fourth empire as Greece, another article compares the animals in Daniel 7 and 8 and concludes that the fourth is the Roman Empire (see here).

The horns exist after the fourth empire.

While the academic view is that the 11 horns are individual kings who reign during the fourth empire, Daniel indicates that they are distinct kingdoms that exist AFTER the end of the fourth kingdom.

The five parts of the statue in Daniel 2 symbolize eras of human history that exist one after the other. The head represents the first kingdom, the chest the second, the belly the third, and the legs the fourth. Consequently, the feet – the divided kingdom – symbolize the fifth era, existing after the iron legs, not at the same time.

Critical Scholars want to make the two feet part of the two legs but, while the legs consist only of iron, the feet are “partly of iron and partly of clay.” The feet, therefore, cannot be part of the legs.

Since the horns in Daniel 7 are parallel to the divided kingdom, the horns follow after the fourth kingdom. Furthermore, Daniel 7 says: “Out of this kingdom ten kings will arise”(Dan 7:24), implying that these kings will not exist inside the fourth kingdom.

The horns exist simultaneously.

While, in the academic view, the horns exist one after the other, Daniel shows that they will reign all at the same time.

For example:

    • The title “divided kingdom” (Dan 2:33, 41) implies at least two divisions.
    • “They will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another” (Dan 2:43), implying kings living concurrently.
    • Daniel saw the 11th horn among the other ten horns (Dan 7:8).
    • The eleventh horn uproots three other horns (Dan 7:8), implying that the other 7 remained after the three had been dislodged.

In Daniel 8, there are two animals in Daniel with horns, and in both instances, the horns represent kingdoms that exist concurrently (Dan 8:20-22):

The ram has 2 horns, representing the Median and the Persian branches of the Mede-Persian Empire (Dan 8:20), which existed simultaneously.

The goat grows 4 horns, representing the four divisions of the Greek Empire, existing simultaneously.


List of articles on the Antichrist in the Book of Daniel

List of all articles on the website