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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. (Daniel 7:8, NKJV)


It was mentioned at the close of the previous chapter that the fourth beast of Daniel chapter seven and, in particular, the identity of the little horn would show us the precise time in history for Messiah to appear. You will recall this fourth beast had ten horns. Daniel, in describing this beast mentions the horns almost as an afterthought. Verse seven reads:


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.


We normally think of horns as being on the head of a creature, but Daniel does not say anything about the location of these horns. Many creatures have spines along their backs or in their tails that are similar to horns and they use these spines for combat in the same manner has creatures with horns on the head. The location of the horns on the beast would not be significant except for two reasons. (1) If they are not on the head it would suggest they were not involved in the early rise and progress of the Roman Empire. (2) The location of these horns is the arena in which the little horn comes up, and this determines the eschatological importance of the whole vision seen by Daniel. The Roman Empire controlled the then known civilized world. It rose to its place of power by conquering the Greek Empire. This was not done in one military campaign; it was accomplished over a period of many years. One of the last regions Rome absorbed was the land of Palestine.

After the death of Alexander the Great, the area of Palestine came under the rule of Alexander’s general Ptolemy I Soter, also known as Ptolemy Lagides. Ptolemy ruled Egypt from 323 to 283 b.c.. The land of the Jews was connected to the Seleucid Empire but it was physically surrounded by the domain of Egypt and detached from the Seleucid realm. Palestine was under the control of five Ptolemy kings from 320 to 198 b.c.. They Syrian wars finally removed Palestine from the control of Egypt and placed it under the rule of the Greek Seleucid dynasty under Antiochus III, the Great, from 198 to 187 b.c. and under the rule of Seleucis IV Philpater from 187 to 175 b.c..

The Maccabean revolt took place and Palestine was independent under the Maccabees from 168 to 135 b.c. After the Maccabees there was a series of kings: (1) John Hycanus I, 135 to 104 b.c.; (2) Aristobulus I, 104 to 103 b.c.; (3) Alexander Jannaeus, 103 to 76 b.c.; (4) Hyrcanus and Alesandrs, 76 to 67 b.c.; and Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, 67 to 63 b.c.. Both Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II claimed control over Palestine. Their continual feuding lead to Roman intervention by the Roman general Pompey in 63 b.c.. They continued to claim power even after the Roman occupation but neither ever had administrative control over the region.

Palestine officially became a Roman Province in 63 b.c.. Palestine was divided into three geographic areas and ten administrative districts, which were governed by various levels of Roman political bureaucracy. The three geographic areas were Southern, Northern, and Northeaster Palestine. The administrative districts in the Southern area were Samaria, Judea, and Idumea. The administrative districts in the Northern areas were Galilee and Perea. The administrative districts in the Northeastern area were Iturea, Trachonites, Gualanitis, Auranitis, and Batanea. Within the province of Palestine there were ten administrative districts and it is not coincidental that there were ten horns on the Roman beast. The ten administrative districts of Roman Palestine cover essentially the same area as did the original ten tribes of Israel. This is not coincidence, it is prophetic accuracy.

Political leadership in Roman Palestine was granted based upon who was in favor with the Roman Emperor at the moment. This favor could be withdrawn at any moment and for any reason. The result was that various parts of Roman Palestine passed back and forth between supervised monarchies and the total control of Roman governors. Palestine was unified only during the reign of Herod the Great from 37 to 4 b.c. and briefly under Herod Agrippa I, 40 to 44 a.d..

As mentioned above, Palestine became a Roman province under General Pompey in 63 b.c.. It was under strict Roman rule from 63 to 47 b.c. even though Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II each claimed the right to rule. Hyrcanus was both high priest and king. His younger brother, Aristobulus II, rebelled against him three months after he began his reign. Aristobulus also was high priest and king. The history between these two brothers is bitter and gruesome. Eventually Hyrcanus was restored to the office of high priest but was never restored as king. Aristobulus was poisoned in 49 b.c. and Hyrcanus was put to death by Herod the Great in 30 b.c.

Antipater Herod, the father of Herod the Great, was appointed procurator of Judea by Rome and held office from 47 to 43 b.c.. Anitpater was from the region of Idumea just south of the region of Judea. He was the son of Aristobulus I and the last Hasomean (Syrian) king of Judea.

Herod the Great, the son of Anipater, gained favor with Rome and succeeded in having himself declared king of Judea. He led a campaign against Antigonus, who had been king of Palestine since 40 b.c. and took control of Galilee and Judea. Marc Antony, who was in charge of the Roman east and a friend of Herod, had Antigonus executed in 37 b.c.. A glance at a map of the region shows that Samaria lies between Galilee and Judea, consequently, all three regions were brought under the rule of Herod.

Daniel saw that “three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots.” What is the significance of “first horns” as opposed to any other of the ten horns on the beast? Idumea was the homeland of Herod. It was located at the very southern end of Roman Palestine. Proceeding north from Idumea are the administrative districts of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. These were the three administrative districts under Herod’s control after he was appointed king and pushed out Antigonus. These three districts are associated later in Acts 9:31 where it is said after the Apostle Paul’s conversion “the churches throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified.” Herod the Great was long dead at this time and the area had been placed under direct Roman rule. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor at the time of the crucifixion of Christ. In time, the area was united for a short time and placed under the rule of Herod Agrippa, the son of Herod the Great. This suggests that in the early days of Christ’s kingdom, these three “horns” were still associated with the little horn, Herod the Great.

Daniel thus describes Herod the Great as the little horn pushing out three of the other horns. Albert Barnes comments on the little horn:


It was a little horn; that is, it was small at first, though subsequently it grew so as to be emblematic of great power. This would denote that the power symbolized would be small at first—springing up gradually.


While Herod eventually ruled over the entire province of Palestine, Rome gave him control of the region gradually over time; he did not take rule over the entire region immediately when he was made king.

Daniel said the three horns were “plucked out by the roots.” That expression suggests some kind of violent action. While Herod did pursue some action against Antigonus, it was not a full scale war; after all, Rome was on his side. Dr. Barnes sheds some needed light on this expression to help us understand what Daniel saw as the three horns were being displaced.


In the growth of that “horn”, three of the others were plucked up by the roots. The proper meaning of the word used to express this is, that they were rooted out—as a tree is overturned by the roots, or the roots are turned out from the earth. The process by which this was done seems to have been by growth. The gradual increase of the horn so crowded on the others that a portion of them was forced out, and fell. What is fairly indicated by this was not any act of violence, or any sudden convulsion or revolution, but such a gradual growth of power that a portion of the original power was removed, and this new power occupied its place.


Herod’s relationship with Rome gave him the edge over Antigonus leading to his displacement and eventual execution. In time, Herod was given control over more and more territory until he was fully the king of Roman Palestine.

Identifying Herod as the little horn is consistent with history and the first principle of Daniel’s prophecies. Palestine was a Roman province at the time of the fourth beast of the vision. It was divided into ten administrative districts. Herod was from the southernmost district and when Rome made him king he gradually displaced the administrations of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Eventually, he was given dominion over Palestine under the careful watch of Rome. We also know he was king from 37 b.c. to 4 b.c.. What most important event in human history happened in 4 b.c.?


And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1–7, NKJV)


Luke provides us with some precise evidence for the date of the birth of Christ. The reign of Augustus lasted from 27 b.c. to 14 a.d.. There is some controversy as to when Quirinius was governor of Syria. His governorship began in 6 a.d. and lasted until 10 a.d.. This fact places his governorship about ten years after the birth of Christ, so we appear to have a chronological problem. However, according to an article in Unger’s Bible Dictionary, the German classical scholar A. W. Zumpt determined that it was probable that Quirinius was twice governor of Syria; the first time from 4 b.c. to 1 a.d. and the second time from 6 a.d. to 10 a.d.. If this is true, then Augustus and Quirinius both were in office in 4 b.c..


Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem. . . . And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” . . . Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” (Matthew 2:1, 8, 12–13, NKJV)


One might think that Jesus was born in the year 1 a.d.; however, it is known there is a four year error in the calendar and the birth of Christ actually occurred in 4 b.c.. We know this because the Bible records the encounter of Herod with the wise men shortly after Christ was born. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that Herod died just before Passover, which took place on April 11 in 4 b.c.. He also records a lunar eclipse just before Herod died, which occurred on March 12th or 13th of that year. Scholars are generally agreed that Herod died sometime between the end of March and early April of that year. For Christ to have been born during the overlapping reigns of Augusts, Quirinius, and Herod, His birth would have occurred sometime between January and early March of 4 b.c..

Daniel said he considered the ten horns; they caught his attention and the suggestion came to him that these horns were the main focus of the dream. These horns represented the homeland of the Jews at the time Messiah would come into the world. Of particular notice was the little horn that came up from among the ten horns. Little did Daniel know at the time, but the time of this little horn would be the most important time in human history—the time when Jesus would be born in a stable in Bethlehem. Herod was upset by the news the wise men brought him about a newly born king of the Jews. All he could think of was the threat of a political king and he sought to have Him killed. God spared the baby Jesus by taking Him to Egypt, and in the meantime, Herod died.

Herod may have feared what he thought was a potential political king; but the King that actually came has a kingdom far greater than Herod ever dreamed of. Jesus has a kingdom that is everlasting and “which shall not be destroyed.”