In the book of Daniel, there are a series of prophecies through Daniel (and one king) that are supposed to clearly explain to people who the forces will be against God and His kingdom at the end of time leading up to the Second Coming of Christ.
Among different symbols and imagery in the various dreams and visions is a strange little horn on two other animals in chapters seven and eight. This critical feature against God is comparable to the anti-Christ force against Him mentioned by Paul in the New Testament.
As I have gone through this myself, I now understand how this is already in existence that we, therefore, need to be aware of; this was the belief of all the former great protestant faith Reformers like Luther, Calvin, Wesley and Spurgeon.
This is technically called a Historicist way of interpreting biblical prophecy; however, a popular mainstream alternative is the Futurist one that believes all the action is still to happen in the future and is probably based around the literal country of Israel.
The Preterist stance assumes this has already happened in the past around the New Testament era.
A widespread assumption by both the Preterist and Futurist of what this little horn refers to in Daniel is a king in the latter part of the Old Testament called Antiochus Epiphanes.
Who Antiochus Epiphanes is and what he did
In short, he was an evil king against God’s people in Jerusalem, with some similarities to what’s mentioned in the book of Daniel.
He was born in 215 BC and was a Greek Hellenistic king ruling the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until he died in 164 BC. This is one of the four regions that emerged in the Greece empire after Alexander the Great died.
His father also has the same name, Antiochus II the Great, and one of the kings mentioned in the prophecy in Daniel chapter eleven with the kings of the north and the south. So Antiochus Epiphanes is what he called himself, although Antiochus Epimanes (meaning the furious) is what others called him.
The way he became king then seems forced after his brother dies, and the fact that his son should really have taken the throne but was too young and then taken hostage by Rome.
He nearly fully conquered the Egyptian king but was defeated by their attacks back; he allowed Ptolemy IV to still rule here as a puppet king so as not to alarm Rome, a rising power at the time.
In 168 BC, when Rome took over Greece as the new world power as per the prophecy in Daniel chapter two with the statue of metals, Antiochus gave away Rome’s control of Egypt. However, as king, he also kept on the good side of Rome, for example, sending an embassy to Rome in 173 BC.
He then returned home but was increasingly angry towards the Jews and the city of Jerusalem. This was contrary to the general attitude of the Seleucids and former Ptolemies at the time, who respected and even protected the Jews and their culture and institutions. Antiochus was known for being generally generous and generous extravagant with gifts and money.
However, Antiochus had issues with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem and the appointed High Priest; his focus was, therefore, on Judea and Samaria around this central city, not the wider Diaspora of believers.
Therefore, it wasn’t so much about exterminating Judaism as a faith but more about who had the authority in Jerusalem, both as a matter of principle and, of course, control and money.
What he did in Jerusalem
In terms of what Antiochus Epiphanes did, this was horrific to both the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, God’s people, the Jews and their faith (this includes a second attack on the town after the first main one).
Here’s the gist of what this included:
• Persecution towards the Jews to the point of death or renouncing their faith, including telling his soldiers to attack those they met and causing others to take refuge in houses (around 80,000 effectively disappeared)
• Forcing families to go into slavery (around 40,000).
• Killing many thousands of Jews (around 40,000_.
• Issued decrees forbidding many traditional Jewish practices
• Sacrificed a pig on the alter and image of Moses in the city’s Temple
• Sprinkled broth of pigs' flesh on the Temple books (which instructed the hatred of all other nations) and then forced the High Priest and other Jews to eat swine’s flesh.
• Put out the ‘immortal’ lamp on twenty-four-seven in the Temple.
• To then set decrees once his High Priest was reinstated to encourage the pro-Greek part of the Jews (Hellenizers) against the traditionalists
• Establish a syncretic Greek-Jewish cult and worship of Zeus in the Temple, plus new feast days
• Forming a new military Greek citadel called Azra in Jerusalem
• Stopping morning and evening sacrifices in the Temple
• Taking treasures from the Temple and the city being plundered
• Destroying copies of Scripture
How it ended with Antiochus Epiphanes
In terms of how this all ended, there are different versions of how he died, which helps fuel different ways to try and fit him in this prophesied role of little eth horn.
This was maybe from Nanaya in Persia when they also attacked their Temple or a divine disease from the Jewish Temple. Also, when he fled to the coast when his army was defeated in Judea, some said he drowned in the sea.
However, the critical point is how his attack on the Jews ended, known as the Maccabean Revolt; basically, the people fought back. Judas M helped gather a group of men and zealots and then came to Jerusalem to defeat the Syrian army.
And after they took the city and Temple back over, this leader helped restore things as far as possible. H purified, repaired and rededicated the Temple, pulling down pagan alters and designating a new priesthood.
The Jews celebrate this milestone on the 25th day of the 9th month (Kislea) as the feast of dedication (Hanukkah).
Unclean stones were bored out, a new altar built, the courts hallowed, and new Temple furniture like the altar of incense, table of Shewbread and golden candlestick. There is also talk of a miraculous touch with only having holy anointing oil for one day but lasting nearly eight days.
The ten-plus-one features
In particular, you can see the ten key features of this little horn in the study’s section of chapter seven.
Plus, in chapter eight, when this little horn is mentioned again, there is a mention of a time span of 2,300 days before the sanctuary is cleansed; this is then explained in chapter nine in the context of the seventy-week prophecy about the coming Messiah, Christ.
Therefore, here are both these ten features, in turn, and then the additional one afterwards, to see how Antiochus doesn’t fit the bill (there's a helpful Youtube video here as well).
1. It comes from the Roman kingdom, the generic fourth iron metal in chapter two, and an awful beast in chapter seven
This is the main point that rules Antiochus from being this little horn symbol – he was from the previous Greece kingdom, not the following Roman one.
Admittedly, the year he invaded Jerusalem in 168 BC was the transition to Roman world control from Greece, but he is known as a Greek king.
Some theologians try and get around this by saying that the little horn in chapter eight of Daniel is different to the one in chapter seven – or even the metal in the statue of chapter two.
But in the study of Daniel in these chapters, it’s clear (and logical) that this is the same little horn and linking to the Roman empire in particular.
Plus, referring back to the chapter two picture of metals, these became progressively stronger and lasted for longer to the end of time – not a one-off king who then disappeared.
Also, delving deeper into the meaning of such a kingdom, this is a broader system being referred to and not just an individual king as with Antiochus. Although it has a leading little-horn figure, it is still a more expansive beast kingdom and system, not a one-person show.
Another point sometimes raised is in Daniel chapter eight, where the little horn was great towards the east, south and the pleasant land. People link this to Antiochus’ direction when seizing Egypt, Persia and Armenia, and then Jerusalem, respectively. However, this is also the direction of Roman conquests later on.
2. It comes after the ten horns, which must be sometime after 476 AD when the kingdom split into ten nations after
There were ten kings in the Seluvian part of the Greece kingdom, which people tried and linked with the ten horns of the beast in Daniel’s prophecy. However, these were minor as Rome took over as the new kingdom, rather than having an effect across the world until the end of time when Christ came.
Plus, timewise, this can’t match the detail of the ten horns in this prophecy, as these ten kings are in the following Roman kingdom after 476 AD and the fall of the Western Roman Empire many centuries after Antiochus Epiphanes.
3. It emerges from and eliminates three of the ten horns and kingdoms and then subdues, plucks up, and stops them
From the last part, three of these horns are highlighted as being affected by this new little (and eleventh) horn and king.
There isn’t a clear link between Antiochus and any such kings, which, as above, are too early under the overall Greece kingdom).
4. It starts as a small horn but then grows into a powerful world influence through the whole beast
Although this Antiochus had a devastating effect in Jerusalem, God’s special place, he didn’t and hasn’t taken over world control and influence.
The little biblical horn starts small and increases to this height of fame far above any others, which as per the earlier point, is part and parcel of the more expansive Roman and fourth kingdoms.
5. It lasts until the end of time when judgement comes, and Christ returns with His Kingdom
Antiochus did prosper and succeeded in causing disaster to Jerusalem and God’s people.
However, he eventually died and therefore won’t last until Christ’s Second Coming (and didn’t even make it to His first one on earth).
It’s clear from this prophecy and the Historicist method that this judgement of the little horn began after 1,260 years of oppression and after the year 1798 AD. Also, back in chapter two’s vision of the metal statue, this is supposed to last until the Second Coming of Christ.
6. It involves a person, regarding a man’s eyes and mouth in the little horn
This does fit, of course, because we are referring to an individual taking the lead.
But this prophecy is just the front face of a little connecting horn, an enormous beast, and a kingdom. However, Antiochus Epiphanes is just an individual reacting to circumstances.
7. The little horn speaks great words against God, which causes the downfall of the whole beast
Interestingly, this king claimed to be a god and did clear actions against God; therefore, upon first impressions, it seems to fit this aspect.
No one dared challenge him in his focused abuse of God’s people and ways. Therefore religion was certainly trampled upon in this period.
And as mentioned earlier, he did a lot of harm to both the physical city of Jerusalem and the Temple, and God’s people, the Jews.
He specifically took away the daily sacrifice (and probably other sacrifices as well), with this one made twice a day, enabling constant communion with God. But, unfortunately, God’s truth in the laws and books in the Temple was also cast down and trampled.
He also cast the temple with the actual temple, although arguably went even further than this and what was prophesied by completely burning and destroying the temple.
Also, regarding abilities, others, such as Alexander the Great, claimed god status.
Also, there is a difference between claiming to be a form of God and even God-like features and then a full-on belief to forgive people’s sins and bring reconciliation to people. This is claiming to be and being above the true God.
Also, this little horn figure is described in the New Testament as being after Christ and the early church and not before, as with this king. Paul refers to the anti-Christ figure in Thessalonians and Jesus as the abomination of desolation in Daniel (Rome was also the controlling force when Jesus was on earth).
8. It is a new horn that is different, diverse, and stouter than the other ten
This little horn is very different from the kings and kingdoms before. Even though Antiochus was angry against the Jewish people, which resulted in extreme behaviour, and he can say not have the usual royal qualities, he was still just a king as per all previous ones.
There must be something different, probably with a religious aspect considering the other God influences here and the symbol of clay mixed with the iron in Daniel chapter two’s prophecy.
9. It tries to change timings and laws
Antiochus tried to change how the Israelites worshipped God – for example, in attempting to stop circumcision and the sabbath and stopping regular temple worship and sacrifices.
However, this was not trying to change the law itself; it just stopped them from doing what they believed God’s law was.
He was under the pretence of religion and claimed this was true faith rather than trying to form a new religion and law of God.
10. It makes war against God’s people, and the beast tramples them under its feet for a set time
As mentioned earlier, he did trample and harm God’s people, whether through torture or tens of thousands being killed.
But the important detail is the time frame of this that is prophesied of 1260 days. So although there is mention of approximately three and a half years of him causing harm to the city and God’s people (which is 1,260 days), when you look at the Historicist method of interpreting this as equivalent years, not days in real life, then this is even beyond Antiochus’ length of life never mind the timing of it with being 1,260 years.
However, this is interrupted in years, not literal days, as per all other timelines which currently line up to Christ’s life on earth and the fall of this little horn many centuries after Christ, not before.
The additional time prophecy
Whilst these ten points specifically cover the details covered in the prophecy in Daniel chapter seven, there is an important additional piece of information given in the following chapter eight.
This wasn’t interpreted until chapter nine and involves another period of 2,300 days/evenings (in addition to the 1260 days as part of the last tenth point and persecution towards God’s people).
This refers to when the ‘sanctuary’ was ‘cleansed’, and applying the Historicist and day-year principle, he highlights what is happening in the heavenly sanctuary many centuries later.
However, the popular Futurist view assumes this is related to the ant-christ on earth and their attack on an earthly temple – and with the assumed Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilment of this role in its entirety (the Preterist stance) or partially (the Futurist one). This period is supposed to link to his attack on Jerusalem and God’s people.
However, it’s difficult to then try and link these 2,300 days to the life of Antiochus and how this relates to his attack on Jerusalem, considering that the focus of this time prophecy is the sanctuary/temple.
Also, this was admittedly clean-up as per the prophecy when the Maccabean Revolt then reinstated this, but it’s not possible to easily link this time frame to this.
In terms of the specific issues with matching this, here are the main ones I’ve come across:
1. It’s just symbolic
In simple terms, it is assumed only to be a symbolic, not literal, number. However, this doesn’t make sense when considering that all other time prophecies are taken and matched in a literal sense.
2. Literal 2,300 days
Most will assume these are literal 2,300 days (which is equivalent to just under six and a half years). If you take the end date as the final cleansing of the temple by Judas MaccabaTemple, say, the 25th of December 165, this must have started on the 5th of August 171.
However, this does not match the actual aggressive attack by Antiochus on Jerusalem, as he had a more peaceful and accepting approach beforehand. An alternative was looking at when Antiochus died in November/December 164 BC, and everything completely stopped. Still, this prophecy refers explicitly to the desecrated templeTempleews persecuted, not the death of the little-horn person causing this.
Whatever start/end dates you look at, it isn’t easy to get these dates to match precisely 2,300. One example is assuming the command to set up pagan alters to victory over Nicanor and have a celebration. Still, if you take the 15th month of Kisleu in 145 BC, there is only 2271 days gap (and the extra 29 days assumed to be the time to go from the place of the battle between Beth-Horon and Adasa).
Determining the start date is also tricky, so maybe in 170 BC when Antiochus first came to Jerusalem or 169 when he first entered the temple. Or people earlier and the murder of the Jewish High Priest Onias III in 171 BC, or when Antiochos looted the temple in 170 BC andTempleed abolishing sacrifices in 167 BC.
Another interesting religious angle sometimes referred to is that there are 2300 days between when Antiochus became king and finally died.
3. A different 2,300 years
Even if the day-year principle is accepted and this equates to 2,300 years, a different start date is assumed rather than the one in the seventy-week prophecy in Daniel chapter nine.
One example away from Antiochus is Alexander invading in 334 AD as per the he-goat vision earlier in chapter eight, where this 2,300-time span is described, which leads to the year 1966.
Although in this context, if you take the starting point even later to when Antiochus was, this leads to date many hundreds of years still in the future.
4. Halving the days to 1,150
Some say this is equivalent to half these number of days, namely 1,150 rather than 2,300; for example, from 168 and the attack on Jerusalem to 165 BC when Judas Maccabaeus took control back of the city and began cleaning things up.
This is based upon both mornings and evenings being mentioned and therefore two timings per day.
However, with the earlier 1,260 days for the time of persecution, these are assumed to be whole, not half days; therefore seems strange that God would suddenly use a different numbering system straight afterwards.
Who’s the Little Horn?
People easily bypass what this little horn means in this chapter and the anti-Christ figure later in the New Testament.
This will be against God and His true believers at the end of time. Therefore, we need to know who we’re correctly looking out for.
Therefore, the ten key features of this little horn, as prophesied in the book of Daniel, are essential. Any alleged interpretation must match all ten, as God divinely inspires all Scripture.
Although there are some similarities which Jews at the time would understandably link together, with hindsight, you can see that he can’t be and that it must be something else, as revealed in chapter seven of the study of Daniel.