Little Horn - Son of Destruction

SYNOPSIS  The “little horn” in Daniel is the model for the “man of lawlessness” described by Paul  2 Thessalonians 2:3-9

Leopard - Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash
In the visions of Daniel, a malevolent ruler called variously the “little horn,” the “king of fierce countenance,” the “contemptible one,” and the “king who does according to his will” appears on the world scene, an arrogant ruler with a “mouth speaking great things” who profanes the sanctuary, causes the cessation of the daily burnt offering, erects the “abomination that desolates” in the Temple, and “exalts himself against God.” This king “made war against the saints” and caused many in Israel to ally “
themselves to him with his flattery” - (Daniel 7:20-21, 8:8-9, 8:22-25, 11:21-36). [Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash].

In the second letter to the Thessalonians, this figure becomes the model for the future “man of lawlessness, the son of destruction” - (Daniel 7:20-21, 8:8-9, 8:22-25, 11:21-36).
  • (Daniel 11:36) - “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done.
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) - “Let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped; so that he sits in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.
In Daniel, the “little horn” represented a king from the “beast with ten horns” who came to power by removing three of the “ten horns” - or “kings” - of the “fourth beast.” A key characteristic of this creature was its “four heads.” In chapter 8, the “kingdom of the Medes and the Persians” was overthrown by the kingdom of “Greece” and its first “great king,” without doubt, Alexander the Great.

After the demise of Alexander, his domain was divided into four “lesser kingdoms.” From one of them came the “little horn,” a “king of fierce countenance” who desecrated the sanctuary, erected the “trespass that desolates,” caused the cessation of the burnt offering, and “destroyed the saints.” Additionally, he “magnified himself against the prince of princes” – (Daniel 8:9-25).

The only historical figure that fits this description was Antiochus IV, the eighth ruler of the Seleucid Empire. He was “diverse” from his seven predecessors because he was not the legitimate heir to the throne - He gained it through subterfuge, having removed three contenders before seizing absolute power (thus, the “ten kings, three of which were removed”). Antiochus styled himself Epiphanés - “god manifest” - an incarnation of Zeus Olympias. For three years he suppressed the Jewish people by profaning the “sanctuary,” causing its sacrifices to cease, erecting an altar to Zeus Olympias on the altar of burnt offerings, outlawing many Jewish rituals, as well as the ancient Hebrew Scriptures. Thus, Antiochus fits the description from Daniel’s visions ‘to a T.’

This figure became the model for Paul’s “man of lawlessness, the son of destruction.” The “king of fierce countenance destroyed wonderfully, but not by his own power…he destroyed the saints.” Likewise, the “son of destructionwhose arrival is according to the in-working of Satan.” Just as the “little horn” magnified himself against the “prince of Princes,” so the “man of lawlessness” would “exalt himself against God,” taking his seat in the “sanctuary {naos} of God.”

Augustus - Photo by Nemanja Peric on Unsplash
Augustus - Photo by Nemanja Peric on Unsplash

Just as the “
contemptible king” perverted many in Israel who did wickedly “against the covenant by his flatteries,” so the “lawless one” will cause “apostasy” and deceive those who “received not the love of the truth with all power and signs and lying wonders.”

Verbal links are pronounced between the description of the rise of the “little horn,” and Paul’s discussion of the “mystery of lawlessness”:
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:5-8) - “Now, you know that which prevails to the end he may be revealed in his season…until he comes out of the midst. Then will be revealed the Lawless One whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the appearance of his arrival.”
  • (Daniel 7:8, 21-26) - “I considered the horns and there came up among them another horn, a little one…this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them until that the Ancient of Days arrived and justice was granted to the saints of the Highest, and the season arrived that the saints should possess the kingdom…and words against the Most High will he speak, and the saints of the Highest will he afflict and will presume to change seasons and law, and they will be given into his hand for a season and seasons and the dividing of a season; but Judgment will take its seat, and his dominion will they remove to consume and to destroy unto an end.”
Like the “little horn,” the “one who prevails,” the “man of lawlessness” will “come out of the midst” at his appointed “season,” So also the “little horn” appeared “among the ten horns.” At the “arrival” or Parousia of Jesus, this deceiver will be “consumed” and “destroyed,” just as the “king of fierce countenance” was “destroyed without hand.”

As for taking his “seat in the sanctuary,” Paul used the Greek noun for the “sanctuary” proper, or naos, not the term for the “Temple” itself - heiros. Likewise, the “little horn” was noted for his profanation of the “sanctuary” where the altar of burnt offering was located.

Elsewhere, Paul consistently applies the term “sanctuary of God” (naos theou) to the saints, the church - “For we are a sanctuary of the living God” - (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21).

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is not simply quoting passages from Daniel. He adapts clauses and terms from them that originally applied to the “little horn” and his campaign against the Jews and applies them to the church and its coming confrontation with the “son of destruction.”



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