A blog by Josh Rives

Mar's Hill

Where Paul preached when he was in Athens.

Posts in ‘Old Testament’

Who is the fourth beast?

In the previous post about the four beasts in Daniel 7, I told you that the fourth beast represents the Roman Empire. I would be lying if I said I was 100% convinced of that though. There are several problems with saying that the fourth empire represents Rome that I want to explore in more detail.

Devour the whole earth

In verse 23, our interpreter tells us that the fourth kingdom will devour the whole earth. Obviously the Roman Empire was huge. It is estimated that the max land area was 2.51 million square miles. However that is only 4.53% of the total land mass of the world and only slightly larger than the amount conquered by Nazi Germany. One interpretation might be that from the Jewish perspective, this might as well be the whole earth.

When does this happen?

We already know that the ten horns are confusing, but a bigger issue is the timing of them. If we are to interpret the eleventh horn as the Antichrist (most do) then the ten horns have to be future. That means that for my interpretation, either the Roman Empire still rules today (it doesn’t) or there will be some reappearance of the Roman Empire in the future. The second option is really the only viable option if you stick with my version and a literal interpretation.

Interpreting figuratively

If you take it figuratively, then you could say the the ten horns represent several kingdoms that emerged after the Roman Empire or it could figuratively mean the rise of the western world.

The problem I have with interpreting it more figuratively is that it is up to you where to draw the line between what to interpret literally and what is figurative. If you say that the ten horns just represents a large number of kingdoms, you could also say that the number of beasts is figurative and maybe there were more or less than four. As you can see it is a slippery slope which can get you in trouble quickly.

The ten horns

We are told that the ten horns are ten kings. It is most likely that their reign is simultaneous, because three of them are disrupted by the little horn. As we mentioned earlier, there is no good theory on who the ten kings coming after the Roman Empire might be so most assume this is still future. That is the best interpretation I think, but it is a pretty inconsistent interpretation. We assign a beginning and end date to the rule of the first three beasts, but then move to a figurative interpretation of the reign of the fourth beast.

However Revelation mentions ten kings/horns twice (Rev 13:1, 17:12). Also the “time, times and half a time” or 3.5 years from verse 25 seems to corroborate the time periods mentioned in Daniel 12:11 (1290 days) and Revelation 11:2 (1260 days). So the future interpretation seems to best fit with the rest of Scripture, but its just not as straightforward as I would like it to be.

Antiochus Epiphanes

Antiochus Epiphanes was a Seleucid king who ruled over Jerusalem after the Greek empire and before the Romans. He was a huge opponent to Jewish worship and tradition because of his belief in Hellenization (the adoption of Greek culture). To raise money to pay the Roman taxes he incurred, he sold the office of high priest in the temple to the highest bidder. He also outlawed Jewish worship, destroyed copies of the Torah and converted the temple to a place to worship Zeus. You can read more about him and how his actions led the the Maccabean revolt in First and Second Maccabees.

Some interpretors believe that the little horn is actually Antiochus and not the Antichrist. There is another little horn mentioned in the prophecy in chapter 8 and most people interpret this one as Antiochus. Since he came from the Greek Empire and not the Roman, you also have to interpret the fourth beast as Greece.

There are still similar issues with this interpretation because the ten horns don’t have a clear meaning in the Greek empire either and Greece did not devour the whole earth. Not to mention the fact that interpreting Greece as the third beast fits much nicer. My take on this would be that Antiochus is a type of antichrist, but not THE Antichrist.

My take on the fourth beast

I think the best solution is that the fourth beast represents the Roman Empire, however in the future there will be a sort of resurrection of the Roman Empire leading to the ten kings and the little horn. This seems to be the least problematic interpretation to me, however I doubt I would martyr myself for this belief.