I received this question on my interpretation of Daniel 7:24 from Brian Godawa. Since then I have had several people reiterate. Brian is the author of a series of novels called the Chronicles of the Apocalypse, in which he presents a historical fiction that shows how the acts of the mad emperor Nero crossed paths with the lives of the Apostles Paul, Peter and John weaving a realistic scenario as to how most of the Book of Revelation could have been fulfilled prior to AD 70. Brian was intrigued with my interpretation of the Little Horn as Nero (or at least the line of Caesars as Calvin thought) but was curious about a seeming contradiction in Daniel 7:24.
I’m going through your explanation of the Little Horn of Daniel 7 as Nero. I can see that in verse 8, the Little Horn “comes up among” the other horns. If Nero is the sixth king, that works safely with Nero. He is “among” the line of kings. Sounds good.
The Nero thesis seems to work well, except for one little verse that is troubling me.
In verse 7:24, it says the little horn arises “after them” (the ten horns).
You wrote: “The Little Horn does not come after the ten horns. It comes up ‘among them.’” This is better translated as “in the midst of them.”
But I can’t find this in any Hebrew language sources I have in Logos Bible Software. Also, I can’t find any translation that takes that approach. They all use “after.” Can you point me to a lexical or other source that supports the translation as “among” or “in the midst”?
~ Brian Godawa
My Response: There are three points that lead me to understand that the “Little Horn” must come up “among” the ten horns in all of Daniel 7.
First, the preposition, ’a·ḥă·rê·hō·wn, translated as “after them” in English, is translated differently in the Septuagint. Prepositions often mean different things depending on the context. You asked for a translation that has something other than “after them.” In the Septuagint version of Daniel, the Greek word here is opisó, and can mean “back, behind, after.”
Second, the verse can be read as if Daniel saw the Little Horn growing up in the midst of the ten after he saw the ten. This is James Jordan’s view in Handwriting on the Wall.
Third, it is necessary to harmonize Daniel 7:8 and 7:20 with 7:24. This is the most compelling argument. In verses 7:8 and 7:20, Daniel describes how he saw ten horns and that a little horn that grew up in the midst of them. We are also told that three kings fell before him. Since 7:24 is the angel’s interpretation of 7:8 and 7:20, it must mean the same thing. Therefore, “after them” must mean that the “Little Horn” grew up after the three that fell before him, not after the ten, at least not from a historical-chronological perspective.
1. The Aramaic word, ’a·ḥă·rê·hō·wn
The word translated as “after them” in Daniel 7:24, ’a·ḥă·rê·hō·wn, occurs only one time in the entire Bible. Daniel 7 was written in the Aramaic of the sixth century BC. The word is related to a Hebrew root word, ’a·ḥêr that means “other” or “another.”
In the early centuries of Daniel’s transmission, there was not a settled translation into Greek of the Aramaic portion of Daniel. The reason for this is that the translators of the Greek Septuagint (c. 250 BC) badly botched Daniel’s Aramaic. Later, another Jew named Theodotion (c. AD 150) did a better job at revising the Greek text. This was the version that the Greek churches used instead of the original Septuagint. Jerome notes this in his Preface to Daniel in his Latin edition of the Bible. The Alexandrian Jews were native Greek speakers and were not as familiar with Chaldean Aramaic as eastern Jews. Scholars believe that Theodotion came from Ephesus in Asia Minor. In Theodotion’s Greek translation, which is what translators have followed as a reference since before the time of Jerome, there are many Aramaic words and phrases rendered more accurately.
Why is Theodotion important for verse 24?
It is possible that Theodotion might have recognized the inconsistency in the context of all of Daniel chapter 7 of rendering this obscure Aramaic word, ’a·ḥă·rê·hō·wn, as “after them.” Instead, he translates it into Greek as “behind them.”
As for its ten horns,
ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise behind them
who shall surpass in evil all the previous ones
and he shall humble three kings
(A New English Translation of the Septuagint, emphasis mine).
The Old Greek vs. Theodotion’s translation of Daniel in A New English Translation of the Septuagint shows an alternative reading, which translates the obscure Aramaic word, ’a·ḥă·rê·hō·wn, into Greek as meaning “behind them.”
As we shall see, the position of the three kings in verse 24 ought to be consistent with verses 7:8 and 7:20. This is most likely why Theodotion chose to render this as “behind them” since it matches up with the next line that says “he shall surpass in evil all the previous ones,” meaning the “three kings” in the next line. In fact, you can read Daniel 7:24 in the Septuagint (Theodotion’s version) and you will see the Greek word, opisó, can mean “back, behind, after.” In 36 percent of the cases in the New Testament where opisó appears (9 out of 25), it is also translated as “behind” or “back.” It depends on the context.
Interestingly, even in the Old Greek version of the Septuagint, the word used is meta, which can be translated as “with, among, after” depending on the context. So even here, it’s not certain that the translators thought ’a·ḥă·rê·hō·wn meant “after them.” Meta can also be translated as “among them.” Meanings of prepositions can vary in different contexts.
At the very least, we have an alternative to “after them” in Theodotion’s Greek translation.
2. Is the Little Horn “after them” or “among them”?
If Daniel 7:24 is read in isolation, “another” seems to imply “another (king) shall arise after them.” So it would seem to be an eleventh king. However, it could simply be that one of the horns in the vision was seen to come up after, and not a king that will come after in chronological succession.
This is James Jordan’s view in The Handwriting on the Wall.
Because this counterfeit Messiah [the Little Horn] appears “after” the ten horns, the first ten Roman emperors (v. 24), many have taken the Little Horn to be the Papacy or some other apostate Christian power. What verse 24 means, however, is that the Little Horn arises after the sequence of ten horns begins, after it comes into being…. While the horns represent the Roman Emperors, Daniel does not see them coming up one after another. They come up as a totality, and the Little Horn appears after this totality has come into being, not after the tenth.
Three horns, or Roman emperors were “reduced to stumps” (v. 8) by him and “fell before” (v. 20) the Little Horn, being “subdued” by him (v. 24) so that its “appearance was greater” than the other ten horns (v. 20).
What convinces me that this is not an “eleventh king” is the fact that in verse 8 the little horn comes up “between” them or “in the midst” of them. In other words, he is one of the ten. So the interpretation of Daniel 7:24 must be referring to the “Little Horn” that the prophet saw after he saw the ten horns.
Further, this horn is greater than the others. The idea here is that Daniel sees ten horns. Then he sees in the midst of the ten horns, one of them, a “Little Horn” at first, growing up to become greater than all of them. He had “a mouth speaking great things” (7:8) and appeared “more stout” (7:20) than the others. This “greatness” or “stoutness” symbolizes his rebellion toward God.
3. Harmonizing the Parallel Structure of Daniel 7
The meaning of Daniel 7:24 is best understood by looking more in depth at the two prior parallel verses of 7:8 and 7:20.
The first time we see the Little Horn is Daniel 7:8.
I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
bê·nê·hên — 1 occurrence in all of Scripture
HEB: סִלְקָ֣ת בֵּֽינֵיהֵ֔ן
NAS: came up among them
KJV: there came up among them
INT: A little came among
I should explain here that Hebrew and Aramaic are closely related languages. A modern comparison might be Spanish and Portuguese; Swedish and Norwegian; or Ukrainian and Russian. For the most part, contemporary speakers of each language could communicate with each other. But there were some differences. Over the years, the older form of “Official Aramaic” from Daniel’s time became more obscure as it was replaced by “Western Aramaic,” the language of the Jews in Judea and some surrounding areas.
Although this Aramaic word for “among” in Daniel 7:8 only appears once in Scripture, there are a lot of related words in Hebrew. The closest word is from Ezekiel who wrote in the same time period as Daniel 7, but in Hebrew.
ū·ḇê·nê·hem — 2 occurrences in Scripture
HEBREW: לְא֔וֹת בֵּינִ֖י וּבֵֽינֵיהֶ֑ם לָדַ֕עַת כִּ֛י
INTERLINEAR: sign between Me and them
HEB: וְהַקִּ֖יר בֵּינִ֣י וּבֵֽינֵיהֶ֑ם וְטִמְּא֣וּ ׀ אֶת־
INT: and with the wall between Me and them
Again, even if you are not a Hebrew or Aramaic scholar, it is obvious that this word means “between” or “among.”
I also looked at what John Calvin wrote about the Little Horn because I consider him one of the greatest expositors of all time. His is the best commentary on Daniel that I have read.
Calvin on Daniel 7:8
I have no doubt that the little horn relates to Julius Caesar and the other Caesars who succeeded him, namely, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and others. Although, as we said before, the counsel of the Holy Spirit must be attended to, which leads the faithful forwards to the beginning of the reign of Christ, that is, to the preaching of the Gospel, which was commenced under Claudius, Nero, and their successors. He calls it a little horn, because Caesar did not assume the name of king; but when Pompey and the greater part of the senate were conquered, he could not enjoy his victory without assuming to himself supreme power. Hence he made himself tribune of the people and their dictator. Meanwhile, there were always Consuls; there was always some shadow of a Republic, while they daily consulted the senate and sat in his seat while the consuls were at the tribunals. Octavius followed the same practice, and afterwards Tiberius also. For none of the Caesars, unless he was consul, dared to ascend the tribunal; each had his own seat, although from that place he commanded all others. It is not surprising, then, if Daniel calls the monarchy of Julius and the other Caesars a little horn, its splendor and dignity were not great enough to eclipse the majesty of the senate; for while the senate retained the name and form of honor, it is sufficiently known that one man alone possessed the supreme power. He says, therefore, this little horn was raised among the ten others. I must defer the explanation of what follows, viz., three of these ten were taken away (Commentary on Daniel 7:8, emphasis mine).
Calvin mentions Nero, but considers the number ten as symbolic. The ten horns represent the Roman Empire, while the Little Horn is the line of Caesars. This is compatible with my interpretation. Where I differ is that the ten horns represent the line of Caesars and the Little Horn specifically represents Nero.
Then there is a parallel verse during the angel’s explanation of the vision in Daniel 7:20.
And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.
Daniel 7:20 read in isolation seems to say that there are ten horns in successive order because it says “three fell” before him. So is the “other” little horn the eleventh horn? That is what a lot of people suppose. But v. 7:8 says he came up “among them” or “between them.”
Daniel had a vision in which he saw ten horns. Then in the middle of the horns one of the ten grew up and became very strong. Three of the horns in the line of succession before him fell to make way for him. If the Little Horn is in the middle, where in line is it? It would be the fifth or sixth horn. It so happens that the sixth of the Roman Caesars is Nero. This “fits” with a key argument among preterists. In Revelation 17:10, John says the sixth king now “is.” Most preterists interpret this king to be Nero.
Calvin on Daniel 7:19-21
With regard to the little horn, I said it referred to the Caesars, who attracted the whole government of the state to themselves, after depriving the people of their liberty and the senate of their power, while even under their sway some dignity was continued to the senate and some majesty retained by the people.
Why, therefore, does the Prophet say — the little horn waged war with the saints? … I reply, this is spoken comparatively, because no war was ever carried on so continuously and professedly against the Church, as those which occurred after the Caesars arose, and after Christ was made manifest to the world; for the devil was then more enraged, and God also relaxed the reins to prove the patience of his people. Lastly, it was natural for the bitterest conflicts to occur when the redemption of the world was carried out; and the event clearly showed this. We know first of all, by horrid examples, how Judea was laid waste, for never was such cruelty practiced against any other people. Nor was the calamity of short duration; we are well acquainted with their extreme obstinacy, which compelled their enemies to forget clemency altogether. For the Romans desired to spare them as far as possible, but so great was their obstinacy and the madness of their rage, that they provoked their enemies as if devoting themselves to destruction, until that dreadful slaughter happened, of which history has sufficiently informed us. When Titus, under the auspices of his father Vespasian, took and destroyed the city, the Jews were stabbed and slaughtered like cattle throughout the whole extent of Asia. Thus far, then, it concerns the Jews.
When God had inserted the body of the Gentiles into his Church, the cruelty of the Caesars embraced all Christians; thus the little horn waged war with the saints in a manner different from that of the former beasts, because the occasion was different, and the wrath of Satan was excited against all God’s children on account of the manifestation of Christ. This, then, is the best explanation of the little horn, waging war against the saints. Thus he says, It must prevail. For the Caesars and all who governed the provinces of the empire raged with such extreme violence against the Church, that it almost disappeared from the face of the earth. And thus it happened, that the little horn prevailed in appearance and in general opinion, as, for a short time, the safety of the Church was almost despaired of.
To Calvin, the Little Horn was the line of Caesars, while the ten horns represented the whole Roman Empire. While I consider this to be a logically valid interpretation, it seems to me that the ten horns represent the Caesars from Julius (first king) to Vespasian (tenth king), with the “Little Horn” being Nero (sixth king) in the “midst of them” or “among them.”
And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
Let’s look first at the Aramaic word used for “after.”
’a·ḥă·rê·hō·wn — 1 occurrence in Scripture
HEB: וְאָחֳרָ֞ן יְק֣וּם אַחֲרֵיה֗וֹן וְה֤וּא יִשְׁנֵא֙
NAS: will arise after them, and he will be different
KJV: shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse
INT: and another will arise after and he will be different
Again, the word here for “after” in Aramaic occurs only one time in the entire Bible. The word is related to a root word that can also mean “other” or “another.” Theodotion had a Greek word, opisó, that can also mean “behind them.” But it is always translated in English as “after.” The word “them” here is implied. So “after them” is just ’a·ḥă·rê·hō·wn — or “after.”
But who is “them”? Is “them” the ten kings or the three kings? And what is “another”? Is it another little horn Daniel sees in the vision after he sees the ten horns as a totality? Or is it a king that will arise in the future after the ten kings?
Again, there are lots of related Hebrew words. Some of them mean “after” or “in the future.” But there is a similar Hebrew root word that just means “another.” So “another” and “after” are related words in Hebrew and Aramaic. There is also an approximate rhyme or “assonance” used here. You can see and hear that the Aramaic word for “another” is a bit like the word for “after.” Even if you don’t know Hebrew or Aramaic, read aloud, you can hear that there is an approximate rhyming pattern in this verse, which may be the reason why it is used.
Regardless of whether this word means “after” or “among,” the context of Daniel 7 shows that “another little horn” arises “after” the three horns and not the ten horns.
Another shall rise after — This implies “another little horn,” because that is a phrase that is earlier in the passage in verses 8 and 20.
After — refers to the three kings, not to the ten, “another shall arise after them [the former three kings whom he] shall subdue” not “another shall arise after the ten kings.”
A – And ten horns from the kingdom,
[are] ten kings [who] shall arise.
B – And another shall arise after them,
and he shall be different from the first ones,
and three kings [he] shall subdue [them].
In A, “ten horns from the kingdom” is paralleled by, “ten kings shall arise.”
In B, “another shall arise after them” is paralleled by “he shall be different from the first ones,” which is also paralleled by “he shall subdue them.”
“Them” are the three kings, not the ten.
“The first ones” are the three kings, not the ten.
The structure is inverted. The object of B is the “three kings.” Since “ten horns” and “ten kings” begins the first couplet, it is easy to miss that the subject of the following triplet is “another shall arise after,” but the object is “the former three kings,” not the ten.
The structure can be mapped like this.
A – Ten horns out of this kingdom,
AA – ten kings shall arise out of this kingdom;
B – Another shall arise after them
BB – He shall be different from the former three kings
BBB – He shall subdue them.
So who is this Little Horn who arises “after them” and “subdues” three kings?
We saw in Calvin’s interpretation of Daniel 7:8, that he saw the little horn as being all the Caesars who persecuted the church, but he mentions Nero specifically.
Calvin on Daniel 7:24,25
The Little Horn follows: A king shall arise, says he, different from those, other ones, and shall afflict three kings. We showed how unintelligible this becomes, unless we refer it to the Caesars to whom the monarchy passed; for after long and continued and intensive strife, the whole power passed over to the Triumvirate.
Calvin sees the Little Horn as symbolic of the line of Caesars. He thinks the number three is also symbolic and it refers to all the provinces that were subjugated by Imperial Rome.
Calvin says about 7:25:
First, of all, Nero raged most cruelly, for he burnt some thousands of Christians at Rome, to extinguish the infamy which raged against himself. The people could not endure his barbarity; for, while the fourth part of the city was destroyed by Nero, he was enjoying his pleasure and rejoicing so mournful a spectacle! As he feared the popular tumult against himself, he laid hold of many Christians, and offered them to the people as a kind of expiation.
It is interesting that while Calvin sees the Little Horn’s persecution of the Church as fulfilled in Nero’s rage, he also sees “time, times and half a time” in v. 25 as being merely symbolic. He sees the persecution by the Little Horn described in Daniel 7 as all the Roman Imperial persecutions together even after the time of Nero.
Time, times and half a time could refer to the persecution of Christians that began in the latter half of AD 64 and ended at Nero’s death in June 9, 68 — exactly three-and-a-half years. In fact, the “Tribunician year” traditionally began on December 10th. It is very possible that the persecution began on that date. If the persecution was due to an edict or legislation, it would have been enacted on or shortly after December 10th because that is when the new tribunes took office and began their duties. The emperor needed the tribunes to enact any edict.
According to the study of coins or numismatics, Nero also began debasing the silver coins around this time to pay for his “Golden House” that replaced the part of the city burned in the Great Fire of August AD 64. The stolen silver also could have been used to pay off the tribunes to begin persecuting the Christians. Thus he would not have needed a senatorial edict to enact this.
In my book, In the Days of These Kings, I describe the beginning of the persecution more in detail. I also examine how each of the 12 Caesars treated the Jews and the Christians. I do not concoct a “this-means-that” interpretation of prophecy, but the idea is to let the whole history unfold as the backdrop. Then hopefully the relevance of first century Rome to Daniel 2,7,9-12 and Revelation will make more sense.
It is a little known yet amazing fact of history that Nero, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian were made aware of a prophecy that a great king would arise in the east. They appropriated Daniel’s Messiah figure to themselves according to contemporary historians. They were aware of the book of Daniel from their encounters with Jews and likely Christians as well. We know this from not only Josephus, but also Suetonius and Tacitus. A later account by Lactantius has Peter and Paul prophesying at Rome that Vespasian would send Roman troops to destroy Jerusalem (see page 557 of In the Days of These Kings).
Verse 24 expresses the same meaning as verse 8 and 20. The sequence is not the line of succession of kings, although it might be implied, but it is the order in which Daniel sees the vision. He sees the Little Horn “after” he sees the ten horns.
The Rule of Parallel Structure
Daniel uses lots of parallelisms. If you don’t get what he’s saying in one sentence, chances are he said the same thing just previously or soon after. I have seen some bad interpretations of verses of Daniel from those who ignore this rule of parallel structure. Often the meaning is right there in the context of the surrounding verses.
Daniel 7:24 must mean the same thing as 7:8 and 7:20. The interpretation of the dream can’t suddenly shift to contradict the dream itself. There is a sequence that repeats three times in the dream. First, Daniel has the dream, then he asks the angel to interpret the dream and interjects by describing again what he saw, and finally the angel gives the rest of the interpretation. The angel’s interpretation has to fit the meaning of the dream and must not contradict what was already said.
If you are still not convinced that the Little Horn must come after the three and not the ten, let’s here map out the verses of Daniel 7 to see which ones repeat the same idea. Here I have alphabetized to show the parallels.
Daniel 7 – The Little Horn
A v. 7 And it had ten horns.
v. 8 I considered the horns,
B and, behold, there came up among them another little horn,
C before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots:
D and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
E v. 9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down,
A v. 20 And of the ten horns that were in his head,
B and of the other which came up
C and before whom three fell;
D even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.
E v. 21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;
A v. 24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise:
B and another shall rise after them;
C and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
D v. 25 And he shall speak great words against the most High,
E and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
Note that in verses 8 and 20, “B” has another little horn coming up among the ten. “C” has three falling before the little horn. Verse 24 is confusing because in isolation it seems to say the little horn came up “after” the ten rather than “among” the ten. However, the structure of 8 and 20 show that the little horn comes “after” the three and subdues them. Therefore, “after” in verse 24 must refer to the three kings and not the ten.
In summary, I’ve proposed three possible solutions.
The first solution is that the Little Horn came up “after” – but here “after” is ambiguous because it is an Aramaic word that appears only once in all of Scripture. The New English Translation of the Septuagint in Theodotion’s version has “behind them.” However, since I am not an Aramaic or Hebrew scholar, I am not willing to stake my whole argument on this.
The second solution, is James Jordan’s explanation that Daniel saw the Little Horn “after” he saw the ten. This has strong merit and is compatible with my third solution.
The third solution I offered is the most convincing. It is that “after” in Daniel 7:24 actually refers to the three kings in the next phrase, but not the ten kings in the previous sentence. The structure of the three repetitive passages shows this must be the case. The three kings are Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius, who were each contemporaries of Nero. Roman historical sources, Suetonius and Tacitus, tell us that each of these kings were assassinated to make way for Nero who was not in the line of succession.
The problem with the entire passage is that there seems to be a Little Horn that comes up “among them” in verses 8 and 20, but in verse 24, he comes up “after.” So are these two Little Horns or just one? Since the third parallelism is the interpretation, it is obvious that it is just one Little Horn who comes up in the middle. He succeeds the three who fell before him, not the whole line of ten.
If we look at how the details of 7:24 are arranged in the same sequence as verses 8 and 20, then verse 24 must have the same meaning.