There is another possibility for understanding the seven heads which removes the need for Johns vision backward in history to take in vistas earlier than Daniels day. How can that be? John sees seven
heads which are said to represent seven kings, but Daniel only sees four beasts
. Yet one of Daniels beasts, the leopard
, is said to contain four heads. We also are told that the fourth beast has a single head (Dan. Dan. 7:20
). If we add the heads of the other two beasts, then this would account for seven
heads: one each on the first, second, and fourth beasts, and four heads on the third. This view has the advantage of removing the need to identify kingdoms prior to the time of Daniel to account for all seven heads which John sees. It seems to provide a solution which allows both Johns and Daniels visions to have the same historic scope, but from different perspectivesJohn looks backward in time, but no further back then the time of Daniel. Unfortunately, there are several problems with taking the seven heads implicitly seen by Daniel as the seven heads explicitly shown to John:
- Five Fallen - John is told, concerning the seven heads: They are seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 17:10+). If we understand the first three beasts of Daniel to represent kingdoms which had passed from view in Johns day (e.g., Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece) and the fourth beast to be Rome, then we would have expected John to be told, Six have fallen, one is, and none is to come! For at the time of John, three of the four beasts had passed from the stage of history and six of the seven heads should have been accounted for.
- Beasts are Kings - Daniel is explicitly told that the four beasts (having seven implicit heads) are four kings (Dan. Dan. 7:17). John is told that his seven heads are seven kings (Rev. Rev. 17:10+). If each of Daniels beasts is a king, how can we take the four heads of one of the beasts and make them kings in the same sense as the beasts? Johns seven heads cannot be the same as the seven heads on Daniels beasts because the seven heads implicitly seen by Daniel only represent four kings. For Daniel, it is the beasts which represent kingdoms, whereas for John, it is the heads . The four heads seen upon Daniels third beast provide additional information concerning the internal workings of the third beast kingdom (e.g., correspond to the four notable horns, Dan. Dan. 8:8), but are not to be included in a tally of heads as seen by John.
- Sequential Kingdoms - Another problem with this view is the inconsistency of treating the four heads of the third beastwhich are typically understood to be four contemporaneous rulers who follow upon Alexander the Great (Dan. Dan. 8:8)the same as Johns seven heads which appear to be sequential in their relationship.
- Historical Span - This view limits the historical span of the seven heads which the Harlot sits upon to extend no earlier than the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the first beast. If so, then the Scripturally-significant kingdoms of Babel, Egypt, and Assyria cannot be accounted for in the ride of the Harlot. Yet aspects of her identity argue for her ride to extend back to very early history, for she is the mother of harlots and of abominations of the earth [emphasis added] . How could she be considered the true mother if she only began to ride as late as Babylon (in the sense of excluding the kingdom of Babel under Nimrod, Gen. Gen. 10:8-10)? In that case, she too would be a daughter rather than the mother.
While there is great attraction in the potential simplification of finding all seven of Johns heads upon Daniels four beasts, there are significant hurdles to doing so. It seems better to take the seven heads, which are found upon both the Beast
and upon the dragon, as denoting seven historic kingdoms under the sway of Satan:
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours. (Luke Luke 4:5-7) [emphasis added]
See #16 - Beast
. See the commentary on Revelation 17:10
. See Symbols of Kingdoms