Who is the “Little Horn” in Daniel 7:8?

Among the ten horns, a single “little horn” makes itself prominent and “speaks blasphemously.” (Daniel 7:8) This little horn is given more details.  It has eyes and a mouth, perhaps to indicate this is a person rather than a kingdom. Eyes are often associated with pride (Isaiah 2:11, 5:15). It speaks boastfully and uproots three of the other horns. In the judgment scene which follows the other horns are not specifically judged along with the little horn.

Who this arrogant “little horn”? There are at least three possibilities. First, the majority of scholarship accepts a Maccabean origin of the book of Daniel, so this arrogant horn is an obvious reference to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In fact, this identification seems clear in Daniel 8:23-26. The vision in Daniel 7 is therefore not prophecy, but a retelling of Judea’s relationship with Babylon, Persia, Alexander’s Greece and the Seleucid king Antiochus IV.

Second, for the minority of scholars who argue the fourth and final beast is Rome, the little horn is a Roman emperor, usually Nero or Domitian, but the first century has plenty of candidates for blasphemous kings! Revelation 13 and 17 seems to take up the imagery of beasts and arrogant horns from Daniel 7 and apply it to the Roman Empire.

Third, it is also possible to argue this arrogant little horn is a future enemy since the final kingdom is destroyed by the kingdom of God (the rock not cut by human hands in Daniel 2 or the son of man in the next paragraph). If the prophecy extends to the time of the messiah then the little horn is plausibly explained as the antichrist, the leader of the rebellion against God in the last days. I would suggest that is how Revelation read Daniel 7.

While it might sound like dodging the question, perhaps the prophecy applies to Antiochus, Rome and the end times all at once. From the perspective of the Jewish people, there will be waves of anti-Jewish kings and governments throughout history. Prophecy often functions in this way in the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah 7:14 predicts a child being born to a young woman who will be called Emmanuel. A child was born at that time, and by the time that child can eat solid food, King Ahaz’s political rivals will be gone. Yet Matthew picks up that prediction and applies it to another virgin and another child, the ultimate “God with us,” Jesus.

One reason I am favor this combination view is the problem of failed prophecy. If Daniel was written in the mid-second century BC and the little horn refers only to Antiochus IV, then the spectacular defeat and apocalyptic judgment of Antiochus never really happened. Something like a son of man does not end the power of the arrogant king, nor does the Ancient of Days establish a kingdom that is sovereign over the whole world which will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:21-22 cannot refer to the fall of Antiochus since the Ancient of Days did not come and judge in favor of the holy people.

Unless Daniel 7:21-22 is over-the-top propaganda for the Hasmonean Dynasty (and many scholars think it is), then the prediction of a king and kingdom more glorious than Babylon never happened. Readers of Daniel living in the first century AD would have certainly not agreed that Daniel 7:21-22 was fulfilled in Judas Maccabees or the Hasmonean dynasty. Apocalyptic at the end of the first century (Revelation, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch) certainly did not think the arrogant little horn was Antiochus; by that time in history they had bigger and better arrogantly little horns, the Romans who had destroyed Jerusalem!

I know some readers will want a more precise identification of the arrogant little horn as some current political leader. But this game of “naming the antichrist” is not very productive, usually resulting in embarrassing predictions which have to be abandoned when history proves the prediction wrong. Trying to name the antichrist also misses the point of Daniel 7: God will defeat the kingdoms of man and replace it with the kingdom of God. Read from the perspective Jews enduring the oppressive policies of Antiochus IV, Rome, or Christian empires up to the present time, there is some comfort knowing God will ultimately be victorious and he will establish his rule in the future.

17 thoughts on “Who is the “Little Horn” in Daniel 7:8?

  1. Yeah, I think it is difficult and counterproductive to try and always figure out and decipher what these prophecies are talking about. It can also be dangerous and embarrassing as stated to try and accurately assign beasts or the little horn to a certain ruler or person. Ultimately, we really don’t know what these prophecies are talking about to the point where we can specifically name them, but we can infer using context and our brains as to a general idea of some possibilities. I believe that’s as far as we will be able to narrow it down to. I think we would be missing the point of the book of Daniel if we focused so much on the details of the prophecy rather than pulling out what we as 21st century readers can use to learn from the word of God. God will win, period. Lots of powers will come against him, but he will win.

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  2. Although it is difficult to definitively say who or what the “arrogant little horn” mentioned in Daniel 7 is, there are some important words in the passage that can give us possible clues. It is more likely that it was a person or individual rather than an entire kingdom for several different reasons. Firstly, Daniel mentions that it was a “little” horn. Speaking from a purely speculative manner, little would seem to indicate a single individual, as opposed to say, a “large” horn (a kingdom). Another important point is the fact that the little horn is described as having “eyes and a mouth”. Again, this would seem to indicate a person rather than a faceless entity, such as a dynasty or kingdom. We are told from God’s word the horn spoke “arrogantly”. Once again, it is more difficult for an entire kingdom to be “arrogant”, since arrogance is a trait most commonly personified in individuals. From this type of generalized description, as well as taking into account the location, setting, and time period of when this took place in Daniel, the mostly likely person the “little horn” is referring to would be that of Antichus IV Epiphanes, who ruled from 175-164 B.C. (ESV, footnote 8:9-10, p. 1603). In the relatively short time span of his reign, the wicked and evil ruler Antichus murdered thousands of Jews, including the high priest Onias III (ESV, footnote 8:9-10, p. 1603).

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  3. Daniel had a vision that something helped him interpret it and in one of them, there was a little horn that was very powerful for being so little. It grew out of the unknown beast and took out three other horns. This little horn could also speak and was talking against God. “there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things” (Daniel 7:8). We are not sure what the little horn represents because there are ten other horns in the vision too. There is a possibility it is Antiochus, Rome or the end times and they all seem to have a connection with it. It is hard to know who it could be, but it is a very important part of the vision. In the end though, the vision is focusing on how all the empires will be destroyed and the last kingdom will be God’s kingdom and it will reign forever. “His kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (Daniel 7:27).

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  4. I do think this is another example of a description in the Bible that we don’t need to spend tons of time guessing what the true meaning is and who the “little horn” refers to. Just as we will never be able to know when the rapture will happen, we also won’t have a perfect 100% answer to this question until it actually happens. Attempts to guess or place the blame on whoever the current public enemy of the day is simply distracts from being able to pursue active work to further the Kingdom while we are here. Just as this prediction of judgement was comforting to the Jews of Daniel’s time, we can also be comforted to know that even though we do not fully understand, God has complete understanding and will bring judgement upon those that reject Him and work against Him. Even in the multiple instances in the book of Daniel where we see an angel bringing Daniel an interpretation of his visions, those descriptions are never detailed enough to actually give dates or name names. We are not meant to know these specific details they are only for God to know. Who knows if even the angel Gabriel knew, or if he only got the same description Daniel got? Either way, we have confidence that all will be made right in God’s timing, and He is and will always be on the throne.

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  5. I talked about this previously in the last blog and it serves as the little horn is an important prophecy in the book of Daniel. I believe that Antiochus IV Epiphanes is the little horn that is described in Daniel 7:8 as it is the “retelling of Judea’s relationship with Babylon, Persia, Alexander’s Greece and the Seleucid king Antiochus IV” (Long Blog). There is room to argue it being the Antichrist however though. Jesus talks about the Antichrist in Matthew 24 with the abomination of desolation in which the Anti-Christ will step foot in the temple and claim to be God. We all remember those who have made claims that George Bush or Barack Obama or Donald Trump are the Antichrist and they make YouTube videos to “prove it”. Sure there can be a benefit in trying to make connections between history and scripture, however using our modern day 21st century brains to make connections that clearly aren’t there is dangerous. I agree with Morgan’s blog in that the most important thing that we can take from this is that these earthly empires and kingdoms won’t stand and well be destroyed and the Kingdom of God will reign forever.

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  6. During the book of Daniel, in Daniels dream of the four beast that rise out of the sea along with another horn and it was described as the “little horn”. In Daniels interpretation of the dream it does not exactly determine who or what the little horn represents in his dream. There are many different thoughts of who it could be. Most individuals believe it to be Antiochus IV but it is not clearly stated in the book of Daniel. The little horn could have been a lot of different people who resisted and went against God. With all of the kingdoms that are fighting for power and taking over the other kingdoms. But God will always overpower these man-made kingdoms and in the end God will replace all of the evil and corrupt kingdoms with the kingdom of God. We do not know when that time will come, but we do know that it will happen some day.

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  7. Who is the “Little Horn” in Daniel 7:8
    It seems that it is pretty obvious that the horn is someone who will be in leadership and will be speaking arrogantly in some way. But like the end of the blog post said, this ends up being a competition about who can guess who this is. It could even be the antichrist who hasn’t come yet. If it is the antichrist, there have been many accusations that have become just plainly a meme.
    While reading the blog, PLong mentioned that there are three possibilities. That Daniel was written after the fact and is just a retelling of history. Second, some scholars believe that the fourth empire is Rome and the little horn is one of the emperors. The third idea is that the little horn will be the antichrist, but with this path, you will get a lot of false accusations.
    The first possibility scared me. I had to go back and read it. I thought that PLong was saying that “In fact, this identification seems clear in Daniel 8:23-26. The vision in Daniel 7 is therefore not PLong doesn’t believe in the prophecy of Daniel. I then reread the paragraph and became clear that these were possibilities.
    I have such a hard time with visions and prophecies because the way they were written so long ago can be so hard to accurately interpret them. Then trying to see how this prophecy lines up with our history. It just seems like there is too much of a possibility that in our imperfect humanistic ways that we could mess it all up. I just hope that we are doing the best we can through God to interpret the scriptures.

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  8. There is part of me that wants to know who the Little Horn is that Daniel is referring to in Daniel 7, but there is another part of me that really does not care to know. I do not know if that makes me a bad person for not really caring, but I see a bigger picture than the fact that one of the horns speaks blasphemy. All I really care about is that even though this horn speaks blasphemy against God, God wins in the end. The horn is taken out by a stone not cut by man—referring to someone of higher being. Just like PLong said in the blog post, there is some danger in trying to name who this little horn represents because it causes a lot of miss-predictions, it can also make us lose focus of what was happening in Daniel 7—God overcame this little horn and replaced it with the Kingdom of God. I think this vision that Daniel had in chapter 7 can tell us something much greater than the fact of the antichrist. It gives us confidence and assurance that no matter what comes against God, He will overcome it. It does not matter who rises up in authority and preaches blasphemy against Christ, He will still be greater than all and establish His Kingdom through the earth. I do not think as Christians we have to worry about who the antichrist is, but rather take hope in the fact that God conquered this little horn. I am not sure if everyone will agree with how I view this passage, but this is what speaks the most to me.

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  9. The Little Horn is the Papacy. Look into it please and see that it all fits perfectly.

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  10. We need to understand that the little horn is not individual but a governance, from history tells who this little is and still strong top this days. I therefore conclude this is Rome the Papacy.

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