By Karen Thompson
First in a Four-Part Series
The Horn Symbol
When the Lord first told me to study the topic of end times, I naturally turned to the book of Revelation. I was surprised when the Lord redirected me and told me to begin with the book of Daniel. Full of anticipation, I opened my Bible to the book of Daniel to dig into its chapters, eager to understand its hidden mysteries. But by the time I finished reading the last chapter, my mind was in total confusion from all the symbols. I read about books, fiery streams, and wheels of fire. There was a giant metal man, a great mountain, a stone, a giant tree, four winds, all kinds of strange animals including a lion with eagle’s wings, a bear-like beast with ribs in its mouth, a leopard with four wings and four heads, and a strange unidentifiable beast that had iron teeth and ten horns! Horns! There was a lot of talk about horns—a ram with two horns, a goat with a great horn that was broken off and replaced with four horns, three horns in the midst of ten horns that were uprooted by one horn, a mysterious little horn with eyes like a man and a mouth that spoke blasphemous things! Oy vey! The imagery went on and on.
First Key: You Must Have a Knowledge of History
I was unable to make any sense of it and wondered how any of it could have meaning. Eventually with God’s help, I was able to understand this astonishing prophetic book. What I came to understand was that there are three keys necessary to open up the secrets and mysteries in Daniel. The first key to understanding the mysteries of Daniel is you must know a little history of the nations that Daniel talks about. All the dreams and visions in the book of Daniel predict historical events. Some of these events have already come to pass, but some events are still future events waiting to unfold. Trust me, without a familiarity of the historical events of the nations involved in Daniel’s prophecies, it is impossible to discern the mysteries in Daniel.
Second Key: You Must Have the Mind of Christ
Another important and vital key to discerning the mysteries in the book of Daniel is that you must have the “mind of Christ” as stated in 1st Corinthians chapter two:
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:12–16).
It is impossible to discern Daniel’s visions (or any of the prophetic visions) without the mind of Christ. If you try to interpret end time prophecy using just your natural intellect, you will either become so confused that you give up right away or you will wrongly interpret the visions. Simply put, it is impossible for the natural mind to understand the hidden mysteries of Daniel’s visions. They must be spiritually discerned. God Himself must reveal them to us by His Spirit.
Third Key: You Must Crack the Symbol Code
Lastly, you must crack what I call the “symbol code.” Cracking the symbol code is essential to understanding Daniel. Without it, Daniel’s amazing prophetic visions will remain a mystery to you. When you understand what the symbols mean, it’s easier to discern the rest. Whether you’ve read the Bible a little or a lot, one thing about God is plain to see: He communicates by using images and symbolism. Knowing this about Him will help you immeasurably when you study not only the book of Daniel but the whole Bible as well.
In this four-part series, we’re going to study four symbols: horns, wings, floods, and mountains. These symbols are repeatedly used in the visions of the prophets. If you don’t know what they mean, it’s impossible to rightly interpret end time prophecy. Let’s start with the most prominent symbol—the horn.
The Horn Symbol
There are a couple of symbols whose history dates back as far as a guy named Nimrod. He is an infamous person in ancient history. And the Bible gives him special acknowledgement because of his unique contribution to history, albeit a dark contribution. For those unfamiliar with the person of Nimrod, he was actually the first despot to rule an empire in the earth.
The Bible doesn’t say a lot about Nimrod, just a couple of comments. The first time we hear about Nimrod is in the tenth chapter of Genesis. This chapter contains a list of all the generations that came from Noah and his three sons after the flood: “Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood” (Gen. 10:1 NKJV).
In verse six, we see Ham’s line of descendants from which Nimrod came:
6 And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim [Egypt], and Phut, and Canaan. 7 And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtechah: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan. 8 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. (Gen. 10:6–9)
In the entire genealogical list, Nimrod is the only person that has personal commentary next to his name. At first glance, the commentary doesn’t seem all that significant. In verse eight, it says he began to be a mighty warrior. And then verse nine calls him a mighty hunter. In the book entitled The Two Babylons, author Rev. Alexander Hislop explains why the Bible calls Nimrod a mighty hunter and why this skill caused the people to exalt Nimrod to legendary status.
Rev. Hislop talks about Nimrod having a war-like disposition and how because of this, he changed the “ancient manners.” Nimrod’s passion was conquest and he “carried on war against his neighbors, yet unacquainted with the arts of war.” Nimrod was the first man to go forth with an army for the purpose of conquering other peoples.
It’s because of Nimrod that the horn gained its reputation as a symbol of strength. The Bible calls Nimrod a “mighty hunter.” One of the legends about Nimrod is that he killed a bull with his bare hands, using no weapon of any sort! From that day on, he wore the horns of the bull on his head as a trophy of victory and a symbol of his power. Nimrod’s first regal crown was a circular band with the bull’s horns attached to it. Nimrod’s horns became a tradition of not only physical might but of sovereign power. This “horn crown” became a custom that rulers adopted from Nimrod. Some rulers wore crowns with two horns similar to Nimrod’s. Others wore crowns with only one horn and some wore crowns with three horns. Eventually, this “horn crown” morphed into a metal crown with simulated horns—a metal band with horn-like peaks. The typical crowns we see today still have simulated horns but are made of precious metals and encrusted with gems.
It is because of Nimrod that the bull and the bull’s horns became symbolic of royalty and power. Archeologists have unearthed statues of Nimrod that portray him as part man and part bull. The upper torso and head is Nimrod the man, and the lower part of the body is that of a bull. The bull also had wings, which are symbolic as well. Because of Nimrod, the bull became deified in ancient civilizations. The Holman Bible Dictionary says popular legends involved Nimrod being the ruler in both ancient Assyria and ancient Egypt. This explains why the bull was so prevalent in the ancient worship of Egypt. Before ancient Egypt was unified as a mighty nation, its small communities worshiped the bull around 3,100 BC and continued as late as 300 and 200 BC.
Egyptians believed the bull represented the personality of the king. Engravings of their kings pictured them as bulls. Egypt’s royal regalia were taken from the different parts of the bull. Its horns were used to embellish their tombs, and the tail symbolized royal power. The bull’s tail as an emblem eventually went by the wayside, but the concept of strength and power like the bull was retained through titles for the king such as Strong Bull or Mighty Bull.
When the Israelites lived with the Egyptians for 400 years, they picked up Egypt’s customs and beliefs. That included their worship of the bull calf. Remember when God told Moses to climb up Mt. Sinai to commune with Him? The Lord wanted to give Moses tablets of stone with His ten commandments written on them. Moses left Aaron in charge of the Israelites while he ascended the mountain to commune with God. Moses was gone for 40 days and nights. (Exo. 24)
After a while, the Israelites thought Moses had abandoned them. They went to Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him” (Exo. 32:1 NKJV). So Aaron had them bring to him their gold possessions; he melted the gold down and created for them a new god. Guess what it was… a calf bull! That’s right. They fell back on their old ways, the ways they learned in Egypt. After Aaron created the golden calf bull, he said to the Israelites, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (v. 4). The Lord informed Moses what they were up to and said to him, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves” (v.7).
The horn has retained its reputation for strength and power even unto this day. Even today, cultures all over the world believe there is special power contained in the horn itself. Certain eastern religions believe the horns of various animals have special powers to treat all kinds of ailments. The black rhino has been hunted nearly to extinction by poachers who want its horn to sell to people who believe it has curative powers.
Are you as amazed as I am that the reputation of the horn has lasted for millennia?
Horns in the Bible
When you see the horn used in the Bible, it can mean different things. Obviously, it can be a literal horn: “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns” (Gen. 22:13).
And then the horn can be used as a symbol of power and strength: “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Ps. 18:2). Other Bible translations translate the phrase “horn of my salvation” to “strength of my salvation.” There are many like verses using the horn to mean strength and power.
The Horns in Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts
When it comes to end time prophetic visions, the prophets use the horn to symbolize kings. In Daniel’s visions, when you read about horns, you’re reading about kings. For instance, in Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, Daniel described a beast that symbolizes the end time kingdom of Antichrist. He described it as being dreadful and terrible and having ten horns. As he looked at the ten horns, there was a little horn that came up underneath the ten horns and uprooted three of the ten horns. He described the little horn as having, “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (Dan. 7:8). All the horns symbolize kings. We know that because an angel interpreted the vision for Daniel. He said the ten horns are ten kings in the latter times who join together with Antichrist to form a united kingdom. The little horn with eyes like a man symbolizes the Antichrist figure.
The Horns in Daniel’s Vision of the Ram and Goat
In Daniel chapter eight, Daniel described a vision of a ram with two horns and a goat with one great horn. The goat charged the ram and broke off his two horns. After that, the great horn on the goat was broken, and four smaller horns grew in its place. An angel gave Daniel the interpretation. The ram with two horns symbolizes the Medo/Persian Empire. The goat with the large horn symbolizes Greece and its king, Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great came against the Medo/Persian Empire and conquered it. That is symbolized by the ram’s two horns being broken. Shortly after Alexander conquered the Medo/Persian Empire, he died. Alexander left no heir to his empire. So four of his generals split up his kingdom among them. That is symbolized by the great horn on the goat being broken and four horns growing in its place.
Zechariah’s Vision of the Four Horns
The prophet Zechariah also had a vision about four horns. The angel interpreting the vision said these were the horns that had scattered Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. The horns, of course, were kings, their enemies. (Zec. 1:18–21)
The Horns in John’s Vision of the End Time Beast
We also see the horn symbol in the apostle John’s vision of the apocalypse. He saw a similar beast to the one Daniel saw, the one with seven heads and ten horns. “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns…” (Rev. 13:1) The ten-horned beast in Daniel and Revelation are one in the same. The ten horns on Daniel’s beast and the ten horns on John’s beast are interpreted as being the end time kingdom of Antichrist.
Not Every Horn Is a King
Then we come to the exception. Right after John saw and described the beast with ten horns rising up out of the sea, he described another beast that followed the first beast: “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast…” (Rev. 13:11–12).
This beast has two horns. Following the pattern of the other visions, some would interpret these two horns as being kings as well. But you would be wrong. In later chapters, this beast is called the “false prophet.” He is a man. And the two horns do not symbolize kings. In this case, the two horns symbolize something else. The description of the two horns are lamb’s horns. The horns indicate he has authority, which the verse already said he had: “he exerciseth all the power of the first beast.” But the fact that they are lamb’s horns gives the impression the beast is harmless. But then it said this beast spoke like a dragon, something not harmless. These two symbols—lamb’s horns and speaking like a dragon—symbolize a duplicitous nature.
In later chapters, this beast is called a false prophet. The fact that he is called a prophet indicates he is a religious leader of some sort. But he speaks like a dragon which tells us he is evil, not peaceful or holy—hence a “false” prophet.
How can we know when horns symbolize kings and when they just symbolize power and authority? The answer is simple. Every time the horns symbolized kings, an angel said they symbolized kings. In Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation, an angel gave the interpretation of the horns as being kings. But in Revelation, an angel never interprets the lamb’s horns on the second beast to mean kings. We establish the interpretation of the lamb’s horns from context.
Summary: The horn symbol outside of the books of Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation do not usually symbolize a king. The horn symbol most often symbolizes power, strength, or authority. If the horn is meant to symbolize kings, we are told they symbolize kings.
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