Daniel’s Prophecy Of The Four World Empires: A Study Of Daniel 7    

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

The Book of Daniel is one of the most incredible Books of the entire Bible.

 Found within its’ pages are incredible historical narratives of the prophet Daniel, who lived during a time when the nation of Israel was captive by the nation of Babylon in 606 B.C. 

While many critics have attacked the authenticity of this Book (for reasons which will be discussed in more detail in a future article), the evidences of its’ historicity are powerful indeed.  
One of the incredible facets of this Writing is the hundreds of prophecies contained within.

These prophecies-many of which are extremely detailed and articulate, and that often find their fulfillment hundreds (even thousands) of years after their being penned-stand as a testament to the inspiration and Divine origin of the Bible. 

Let’s notice the text, and then we will study it carefully. (We will be focusing primarily upon the identity of the Four Beasts, and will focus specifically on Daniel 7:9-14 in a future article).

The Vision  

Daniel 7:1-8-1    In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.2    Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.3    And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.4    The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.5    “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’6    “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.7    “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.8    I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.
The Interpretation Of The Vision (Daniel 7:15-28)

Daniel 7:15-28-15    “I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.16    I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things:17    ‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.18    But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’19    “Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet;20    and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows.21    “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them,22    until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.23    “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be A fourth kingdom on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces.24    The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings.25    He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time.26    ‘But the court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion, To consume and destroy it forever.27    Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’28    “This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart.”

The Three Keys To Interpreting The Passage  

Daniel here is given insight into the future, both near and distant: and plainly stated within the text are the three keys to understanding this vision.

Key One: The “Beasts” Are “Kings”.

 Daniel makes it clear that these “beasts” which he sees are actually kings. 

Notice carefully:

Daniel 7:17-Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.

So, Daniel is describing four “kings” which will arise out of the earth. 

However, notice the second key to interpreting the passage:

Key Two: “King” Equals “Kingdom” 

The prophet is clear that the kings of this passage actually stand for “kingdoms.” The angel to whom Daniel is speaking makes this clear as well:

Daniel 7:23-Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be A fourth kingdom on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces.

These “kings” represent their entire “kingdoms.” This should not surprise us; earlier in Daniel 2, king Nebuchadnezzar himself stood as the representation of the kingdom of Babylon (Daniel 2:36-45).

Key Three: “Horn” Equals “King” Which Equals “Kingdom”

Daniel 7:24-The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings.

Since “kings” in this passage stands for “kingdoms,” Daniel thus describes how the fourth kingdom listed will be divided up into ten different “kingdoms.”

With this keys from the text established, let’s now turn to identifying the four beasts.

The Four Kingdoms  

The first beast is described by Daniel as being a lion with eagles’ wings (Daniel 7:4). What is interesting is that Daniel uses the imagery that the Prophets (especially Jeremiah) use to describe the nation of Babylon. 

Emanuel B. Daugherty has well written:

“The lion and eagle are both symbols of Babylon (Jeremiah 49:19; 50:17, 44; 48:40; 49:22; Ezekiel 17:3, 12). The wings represent speed; the rapidity of the Babylonian conquest of the old Assyrian Empire.” (Emanuel B. Daugherty, A Commentary On The Book Of Daniel, 134; Bethlehem, W.V.)

The Book of Daniel shows that he was familiar with the writings of Jeremiah the prophet. 

Notice the statement made in chapter 9:

Daniel 9:2-in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

The discoveries of archaeology have again served to help confirm the Bible narrative on this issue, pointing out that winged lions were commonly displayed in ancient Babylon, and may have been a national symbol:

“Second, statues of winged lions, which are believed to have been representative of the empire, have been found in the ruins of Babylon, and lions adorned the famous Ishtar Gate. Although the text does not specifically interpret the rest of the verse, the meaning of the symbolism would naturally be expected to be found in the descriptions of Nebuchadnezzar (who embodied the Babylonian Empire) presented elsewhere in the book.” (Stephen R. Miller, The New American Commentary Volume 18: Daniel-An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture, 197 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group)

Thus, the first kingdom is clearly identified as the nation of Babylon.

The next kingdom (the one which overthrew Babylon) was the Medo-Persian Empire. 

Joining forces to overthrow Babylon, the Medes and the Persians were able to penetrate the defenses of the city (with the help of renegade priests within the city walls) and capture it with hardly a fight.

The metaphor of a bear was an apt description of the Medo-Persian alliance. It was vicious and powerful, rising to dominance with great ferocity and vigor. Babylon sought an alliance with Lydia and Egypt, to defend itself against the Medes and Persians. However, they were unable to stand against Cyrus. 

As Ken Johnson has stated:

“The bear with one side higher than the other represented the combined empire of the Medes and Persians. The beast corresponds to the chest and arms of silver. Babylon, in fear of Cyrus, formed a coalition with the kingdoms of Egypt and Lydia. These are represented by the three ribs in the bear’s mouth, which proved to be no match for the armies of Cyrus. Lydia fell to the Persians in 544 BC; Babylon, in 537 BC; and Egypt, in 523 BC.” (Ken Johnson, Ancient Book Of Daniel, 85 (Kindle Edition)

The third kingdom is identified as a leopard with four wings and four heads. The leopard in the Bible is used for the imagery of speed and rapidity (cf. Habakkuk 1:8). The third great kingdom which arose after the Medes and the Persians was the kingdom of Greece, under the guidance of Alexander the Great. His rise to power and conquest of the known world was very rapid, and the image of a leopard perfectly describes him.

Alexander’s kingdom was divided up four ways at the time of his death. The Grecian Empire came under the leadership of four great “heads” of state: Cassander, Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Antiognus.

The next powerful nation mentioned is-well-indescribable. It is exceedingly fierce and is described as trampling and devouring the “residue” or the “earth” (Daniel 7:18, 23). 

Further, this kingdom will wage a horrible war against the “saints,” i.e., the people of God (Daniel 7:23-27). 

Which nation arose to great dominance after the downfall of the Greeks and waged a campaign to destroy the people of God? 

The nation of Rome!

What is truly incredible about this aspect of the prophecy of Daniel is that he describes how this fourth kingdom will be divided up into ten smaller kingdoms (Daniel 7:23-24). The nation of Rome, as history books will document, was eventually divided up into ten different nations.

 As one author states:

“Irenaeus, writing in the second century, continued to see the ten horns as a later development of the Roman Empire. He tells of John in Revelation writing “concerning the ten kings who shall then arise, among whom the empire which now rules (the earth) shall be portioned.” In other words, ten horns have to do with the breakup of the Roman Empire. “Early in the third century, Hippolytus saw himself as living under the fourth kingdom but with the ten horns as something yet in his future: “The ten horns were emblems of the kingdoms are yet to rise.” By the fifth century A.D., the declining Roman Empire disintegrated into ten barbaric parts ushering in the Middle Ages…“…It was a time of upheaval; powers and borders were in flux. For this reason, not all scholars will list all the same names, nor exactly ten. Nonetheless, the following typical list of the peoples involved can generally be confirmed by any history book covering the fall of the Roman Empire: Burgundians, Franks, Heruli, Huns, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Saxons, Suevi, Vandals, and Visitoghts. “Western Roman Empire had disintegrated; the predicted ten horns had become a historical reality. (David Vaughn Elliott, Nobody Left Behind: Insight Into “End-Time” Prophecies, 162; Methuen, Massachusetts; privately published)

Daniel the prophet described the rise and fall of at least two future (from his standpoint) world empires. He described in vivid detail the hatred the fourth empire (Rome) would have against the church of Christ, as well as the fact that it would be divided up into ten different kingdoms. Yet this did not occur until nearly a thousand years after Daniel wrote these prophecies!

The Identity And Description Of The “Little Horn”  

Yet perhaps the most incredible prophecy recorded here deals with the rise of the “little horn.” 

As “horn” equals “king” which equals “kingdom,” we are to understand that this “horn” is actually a kingdom of sorts. 

Notice that we are told it will arise after the fall of the Roman Empire, and from the ten-fold division of this kingdom (Daniel 7:8). 

What’s more, this “little horn” is described as a religious power.

 How do we know this? Notice that Daniel says it assumed the power to “change times law” (Daniel 7:25). 

These two phrases combined together carried with it the idea of Divine law.

Further, we are reminded again that this political/religious/military power would continue to persecute the church throughout its’ existence.

Now, only one religious institution fits the bill completely. 

What kingdom: 

Arose from the remains of the Roman Empire: 

Thought it had the power to change Divine laws and times; 

and Continued persecutions against the saints of God?

The papacy of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Three Which Fell Before The Little Horn 

Daniel describes how three of the horns (i.e., three of the kingdoms which arose from the Roman Empire) would stand against the “little horn,” and would be destroyed by it. Notice how history documents this:

“Shortly after A.D. 476, “three” of the “ten horns” resisted the growing political influence of the papacy, and one by one, they were systematically “plucked up by the roots” and destroyed. The Heruli were wiped out in A.D. 493, the Vandals in A.D. 534, and the Ostrogoths were eliminated in A.D. 538. No modern European nation can trace its roots back to these “three” powers. They’re gone. And so far, these historical clues (taken together) can apply to no other organization except the Roman Church.” (Steve Wohlberg, Decoding The Mark Of The Beast, 158 (Kindle Edition); Goldwater, MI; Remnant Publications)

All of the factors fit exactly. We have here a prophecy of the rise of the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church.


The prophecies found here are sufficient to establish that the Bible is inspired of the Holy Spirit. There are many other incredible prophetic utterances found in Scripture which continue to confirm the Bible is the Word of God, and we will continue to examine some of these incredible evidences in future articles.

Why not make the decision to build your life upon the teaching of the Word of God? Today as a believer, repent and be baptized into Christ, having your sins washed away by the blood of Christ (Acts 2:37-38).

The grace of The Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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