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Notes on Daniel: The Beasts and the Horns as fluid symbols

By Jay Rogers
Published April 27, 2008

The symbolism of Daniel 7 and 8 sheds light on how the images in Revelation ought to be interpreted.

Are the beasts meant to symbolize kingdoms or individuals?

Are the horns of the various beasts to be interpreted as kingdoms or individuals?

There has been some criticism on the preterist interpretation of the Beast of Revelation 13. In one place, the preterist interpretation has the “beast from the sea” as Nero, and in another place it is the Roman Empire as a whole. Yet this use of a “beast” as a fluid symbol is a frequent feature of Daniel as well.

Daniel has beasts and horns that are fluid rather than static symbols. Sometimes they symbolize individuals and sometimes they symbolize kingdoms.

A beast can symbolize any Gentile nation. For the most part, the beasts mentioned are unclean animals according to ceremonial law. Horns are the crowns of the beasts; just as the king is the crown of the kingdom.

Some examples

Daniel 8:3 — Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.

A ram which had two horns — The Empire of the Medes and the Persians.
The Medes conquered and destroyed Babylon, but the Persians ruled
over the kingdom in the end.

Daniel 8:5 — And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on
the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat
had a notable horn between his eyes.

A he-goat — The Empire of Greece and Macedonia

A notable horn – Alexander the Great

Daniel 8:8 — Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward
the four winds of heaven.

The great horn was broken — Alexander died an untimely death at a young age shortly after conquering much of the known world.

Four notable ones (horns) — Seleucus, Antigonus, Philip and Ptolemy, the successors of Alexander, who divided his empire among them.


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