The horns of certain animals appear frequently in Scriptures as symbols. These are often used in prophetic visions to represent the power of individuals or kingdoms (1 Kings 22:11). While horns were also fashioned into musical instruments (see TRUMPET/SHOFAR), their symbolic use is usually indicated when they are mentioned. Hornlike projections were included at the four corners of the altar of incense in the original tabernacle and in the Jerusalem temple. These horns were carved from wood
and covered with bronze or gold. They were visual reminders of an encounter with the God of ultimate power as they surrounded the fragrant offerings before God. When David listed the dependable aspects of his relationship with God in Psalm 18, he began, “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my Savior, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the strength of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps 18:1-2). The word strength is literally horn, playing off the idea of vigor and power that horns represent.
The horns that appear in visions are usually attached to recognizable animal though the number and shape of the horns indicate these are clearly figurative creatures. For example, Daniel saw an animal he couldn’t really identify, the fourth image in a terrifying series that included a huge flying lion, a bear, and a flying leopard. This las animal featured ten horns. When another horn sprouted, three of the previous horns were displaced (Dan 7). Then he saw a ram in one of his visions that had a huge single horn that broke off and was replaced by four horns, one of which sprouted an additional horn (Dan 8). The included interpretations of these visions indicated each of these horns represented a king/kingdom that would arise for a time. Daniel had seen a stunning display of the flow of history that would follow his life.
HORNS OF POWER
This use of horns to visualize power also appears in John’s visions in Revelation 13 and 17. The beasts pictured there have similarities to Daniel’s beasts but also have unique features. The beast representing the Antichrist who rises from the sea combines parts of Daniel’s vision (leopard-like general appearance with a bear’s feet and a lion’s mouth), but it also has seven heads and ten horns bearing crowns. As the vision unfolds, the beast appears to be a human who wields the power represented by the ten horns, or controls the power associated with the ten kings. Then the first beast is joined by another one, who has “two horns like a lamb” (Rev 13:11). This one functions as a religious spokesperson for the first beast, using powers given him by the serpent (Satan) to direct worship to the first beast. In Revelation 17:12-14, the horns in John’s vision are given prophetic significance: “The ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet started to rule. They will receive authority to rule as kings with the beast for one hour. They have one purpose-to give their power and authority to the beast. They will go to war against the lamb. The lamb will conquer them because he is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Those who are called, chosen, and faithful are with him.” John, recording these sights at the close of the first century, received a God-given glimpse of the closing days of this age. The lamb he mentions is helpfully identified as Lord of lords and King of kings, none other than Jesus Christ himself. In the end, he will be the victor. His is the ultimate horn of power.