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Daniel: Prophet of the Ages - Book 2

This is a commentary covering the first three of Daniel's visions in chapters 7-9.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 2

The Little Horn

Out of the fourth beast was to come a little horn, which represents an extension of this “iron” beast. Daniel 7:8 says,

8 While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts.

This little horn represents the feet of iron mixed with clay. Hence, it has a fundamental weakness, since iron does not mix with clay (Dan. 2:43). This phase of the iron kingdom in a sense is a fifth kingdom, distinct and different, yet it is treated as an outgrowth of the fourth. In other words, it is a new phase of the iron kingdom.

It began when the Emperor Justinian “The Great” came to power in Constantinople in 527 A.D., which was 51 years after the fall of the Western Empire and the city of Rome itself in 476. It appears that a Jubilee cycle was meant to separate the two phases of the iron kingdom. There is no justification for a 1500-year “gap” in prophecy from the fall of Rome to the establishment of the European Economic Community in 1958. Further, since the European Union has far more than “ten horns” (members) today, the predictions of the prophecy teachers have been fully discredited.

Emperor Justinian sought to reconquer the Western empire from the invaders who had taken it in 476. He did not succeed in this, but his reign was important in reaffirming the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

Justinian inadvertently affirmed the authority of the Roman Pope by losing a power struggle between himself and Pope Agapetus in 535. In a way, it was a classic struggle between church and state. The Popes represented the church, ruling from Rome. Justinian represented the state, ruling from New Rome, also known as Constantinople. The power struggle between them was perhaps the first manifestation of the weakness in the feet of iron and clay.

The most important identifying mark, which we will discuss later in greater detail, is that the emperor “will intend to make alterations in time and in law” (Dan. 7:25). This describes perfectly the two main works of Justinian. The Roman calendar had been dated from the founding of Rome (ad urba condita) in 753 B.C. Justinian changed it so that the years began with the birth of Christ. Then the emperor overhauled the entire legal system of the empire in order to “Christianize” it. The first draft of these new laws was published in 529, revised in 530, and came fully into force in 534.

The following year, however, Justinian’s dispute (535) with the Roman pontiff, Agapetus, ended with the subordination of the emperor to the pope. The emperor had little choice, because he had put Rome under Church law, not realizing that this would make the popes legally supreme and leave the emperor as the mere enforcer of Church decrees.

This mixture of iron and clay did not mix well, but it was sufficient overall to keep the iron kingdom intact for a long time. Even when Constantinople fell in 1453, papal supremacy remained intact and was only strengthened by the demise of its rival city. The Roman church has survived into modern times.

As we will see later, Daniel was most interested in this little horn. In Dan. 7:16 we find that the prophet was able to ask questions in order to obtain further information from “one of those who were standing by.” The Concordant Version calls him “one of the risers,” picturing him as rising (or one who had risen), rather than just “standing.”

The Three Horns Plucked Up

In order to understand the fulfillment of prophecy, one must know how the prophecies were fulfilled in history. Historical knowledge is not generally known by the public, mostly because of the way in which it has been taught. Public schools have made history both boring and irrelevant, whereas it is both interesting and relevant when history is seen as the fulfillment of prophecy.

There is no way to understand how the little horn plucked up the three horns by the roots unless we study the history of Rome during that period. The three horns in Daniel 7:8 were three Arian kingdoms that had conquered different parts of the Western Roman Empire. The Arians were a widespread Christian religious sect who followed the teachings of a man named Arius of Alexandria.

Arius denied Trinitarian doctrine and asserted that Jesus Christ is the Son of God but is distinct and subordinate to God the Father. He also taught that Jesus Christ was created by the Father, rather than being co-eternal. Arianism had become so widespread by the early fourth century that in 325 Constantine called for a Church Council to be held at Nice to settle the issue.

The Church Council vote went against Arius, and so “Arianism” became an official heresy, and for the next two centuries “Orthodoxy” was largely defined by one’s Trinitarian belief.

Of course, the Council of Nicea did not resolve the issue. Constantine himself was an Arian at heart, but he submitted to the decision of the Council. Other Arian leaders, however, were not so submissive, and the conflict continued. The Arians converted many “barbarian” nations to its version of Christianity, and these are the nations that eventually overthrew the Western Roman Empire in 476.

The Heruli Overthrown in 493

Rome itself fell in 476 A.D. to the first of these three Arian kingdoms—the Heruli under an Arian king, Odoacer. Most are unaware that he professed to be a Christian, because the church historians did not consider Arians to be Christians, but heretics. Hence, they called the Heruli “barbarians.”

The Heruli were an East Germanic tribe that migrated south from Scandinavia to the Black Sea in the third century. In the fourth century they were subjugated first by the Ostrogoths and then by the Huns. When they broke free from the Huns in 454, they established their kingdom and conquered Rome. Odoacer was then named King of Italy.

King Odoacer ruled as King of Italy from 476 to 493 when he was overthrown by Theoderic, the son of a German king, Theodemir. As a young man, Theoderic was sent as a hostage to Constantinople, where he was given the best education. In 473 he succeeded his father as leader of the Pannonian Ostragoths. In 483 Emperor Zeno of Constantinople made him a Patrician and gave him the office of Magister militum (master of the soldiers). In 488 he became king of the Ostrogoths.

In 488 Emperor Zeno ordered Theoderic to overthrow Odoacer in Italy. After winning some major battles, he took Ravenna, Odoacer’s capital, in 493. On Feb. 2, 493, Theoderic and Odoacer signed a treaty, and a banquet was organized to celebrate the occasion. During the banquet, after a toast, Theoderic killed Odoacer with his own hands.

Theoderic died in 526 just before Justinian the Great came to the throne in Constantinople.

The Vandals Overthrown in 533

The second of the three horns plucked up by the roots was the Kingdom of the Vandals, another Arian kingdom. In 400 A.D. they had been pushed west by the Huns. These Vandals then settled in Spain in 409 before invading North Africa in 429, taking these parts from the Western Roman Empire. Saint Augustine of Hippo died at the age of 75 just before the Vandals arrived. At their height they also controlled Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica.

The Vandals established Arianism as the official religion and persecuted the Roman Catholics if they did not convert to the new official faith. Their reputation for cruelty and destruction changed the meaning of the word “vandal” from a wanderer to one who maliciously destroys property.

For the next 35 years the Vandals ruled the Mediterranean Sea, attacking and pillaging the coasts of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. For a time, the Sea was even called Wendelsae, The Sea of Vandals.

In 527 Justinian came to the throne in Constantinople. He sent his great general, Belisarius, to fight against the Vandals in 533, while finishing up his law project. Belisarius defeated the Vandals and turned their kingdom into a Roman province. So the second Arian “horn” was plucked up in 533.

The Ostrogoths Overthrown in 553

In 534, when General Belisarius returned to Constantinople from his successful African campaign, he was given a Roman Triumph in his honor. The general was given a laurel wreath and a purple-and-gold “painted toga” and was paraded through the streets of the city.

It is believed to be the last Roman Triumph ever given.

The Emperor Justinian then resolved to take Italy from the Arian Ostrogoths and restore it to Orthodox faith. In 535 Belisarius was commissioned. After taking the strategic cities, the Ostrogoths offered him the position of Emperor over the Ostrogothic Kingdom. He pretended to accept, marched into Ravenna in 540, and then claimed the city in the name of Justinian.

However, the news that Belisarius had accepted the Ostrogoth offer reached Justinian, and he recalled Belisarius to Constantinople. He returned, bringing with him the captured King Witiges and his treasures. In the next few years, he fought the Persians, who had taken Syria. Meanwhile the Ostrogoths had elected a new king, Totila, and had reconquered the cities of Italy.

Belisarius was sent to Italy, but he failed to take it back, due mainly to lack of supplies and reinforcements. Perhaps it was due to the Bubonic Plague that had decimated Constantinople in 541-542. Belisarius retired in 549, and two years later a eunuch named Narses was sent to Italy with an army of full strength. By this time Constantinople had recovered from the effects of the plague.

The Arian Ostrogothic Kingdom was conquered in 553, pulling up the third “horn” by the roots, as prophesied in Dan. 7:8. Both Belisarius and Justinian died in 565 within a few months of each other.

This was how the little horn plucked up three other horns by the roots.