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“Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. (Daniel 7:19–20 ESV)
Daniel says that one horn uproots the other three horns because he is greater than them. Daniel may be speaking about the rise of emperor Vespasian who established his reign during the year of the four emperors. During this civil war it is his armies that are victorious as he successfully claims the title of emperor. If this is correct, then the counting of the seven emperors works well. Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero are the five who have fallen. The one who is reigning now is Vespasian because Daniel told us not to count those three emperors Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, who were of no consequence. Then the one to come who will “remain only a little while” is Titus who ruled only from 79-81 AD. After Titus is Domitian. He is the eighth emperor who is like the beast, belongs to the seven, and goes to destruction. Domitian will begin to carry out these prophecies that we have read about in the previous chapters. He will claim to be God and demand divine honors and sacrifices to be made toward him.
The ten horns in verses 12-14 sound like the description to the second beast, also called the false prophet. These ten horns represent the localities and provinces that ruled within the Roman empire. Johnson rightly notes, “The multiplicity of sovereignties in confederacy that enhance the power of the beast” (Johnson, 560). Rome had given power to various regents and procurators, like the Herods, to rule over the regions and provinces. Yet their power was only from the Roman empire itself and was not their own. These rulers gave their allegiance to the Roman Empire (the beast) and would make war against God and his people who did not worship the beast.
Verses 16-17 show that the world is going to turn against Rome. The imagery is similar to Ezekiel’s prophecy against Jerusalem.
“Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. (Ezekiel 16:35–37 ESV)
The description given is one of the primary reasons for Rome’s fall. The inner decadence and inner strife are a couple reasons why Rome fell. Daniel prophesied that this was the nature of Rome and would lead to its collapse. We read of the fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire) made of iron and clay so that is was partly strong and partly brittle. Notice verse 43, “As you saw the iron mixed with clay, so will they mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.” The Roman Empire would not hold together but fall apart because of the way it was built. One of the greatest strengths of Rome was that it incorporated all the languages and nations of the world under it. However, this also was its weakness, leading to perpetual internal problems until it finally fell. Provinces and nations under the power of Rome will turn and fight against Rome. Verse 17 points out that this is God’s doing. God is the one who brought about the fall of Rome and its empire.
The chapter concludes definitely stating who the woman, the great prostitute, is. She is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth. It is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (NRSV), reigns over the kings of the earth (NASB), and has an empire over the kings of the earth (HCSB). The only city that has an empire over the kings of the earth at the time of the writing of Revelation is the city of Rome. Rome is the great prostitute. Her demise will come when those nations and peoples under the empire turn against her and make her desolate.
It is interesting to note that God declares his involvement in the affairs of the world. Too often we can think that God is not active in the rise and fall of nations or the affairs and events that occur on the earth. Verse 17 reminds us that God would put it in the hearts of the leaders of the earth to turn against Rome for its destruction. Our Lord is alive and active. He is involved in the affairs of this world and we should pray that God act for his glory and purpose. Consider that there was nothing miraculous about the fall of Rome, yet it was God’s purpose and God’s doing.
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