One of the most interesting details about the end-times is the ten horns of the beast. The ten horns are ten kings/ten nations that will form an alliance with the Antichrist to conquer the world and persecute the people of God. Exactly who these ten nations are has been a matter of debate among Christians. Here is some of the basic information provided for us:
- These ten kings make their first appearance in Daniel 2. In this chapter, the king of Babylon has a dream of a huge statue that was divided into different sections representing different empires throughout history (head, chest and arms, belly and thighs, legs, and feet and toes). The toes symbolized these ten kings (2:44). They also make an appearance in Daniel 7:7-8, 20, 24 and in two chapters in Revelation (13:1 and 17:3, 12-17). Here they are symbolized as ten horns that grow out of the final beast/empire.
- The Antichrist is pictured as an eleventh horn in Daniel 7:8, 20, 24. It is here that the Antichrist is said to rise among them. This indicates that the ten kings are contemporaries, and they exist prior to the appearance of the Antichrist.
- Daniel 7:8, 20, 24 teach us that the Antichrist will “uproot” three of them as he grows in power.
- The ten kings, according to Revelation 17:12-14, receive power alongside the Antichrist for a very short time (the period of the tribulation). The purpose of their existence is to give their power and authority to him. This seems to be telling us that they are a major part of the reason why the Antichrist will become so powerful.
- They will destroy the woman riding the beast (Revelation 17:15-17).
- They wage war against Christ and are destroyed by Jesus at his second coming (Daniel 2:44, Revelation 17:14; 19:19-21).
Symbolic or Literal?
Scripture makes it quite clear that the ten kings are a major part of the end-times. However, a very important question remains: are they ten literal nations or are they simply symbols for something else. They have been seen as symbols for all the kings of the world (thus making only the number ten symbolic), a continuation of the ‘spirit’ of Roman dominion…,” or, as one scholar believes, the art, educational, commercial, industrial, governmental sectors that serve the beast.
The belief that they are symbols comes from the fact that we find a lot of figurative language in prophecy, especially the book of Revelation. However, I believe that it is more likely that they are ten literal rulers. Just because there is a lot of metaphorical language in prophecy does not mean that everything is. This would also include the use of numbers that sometimes do carry a symbolic meaning. There is nothing in the immediate contexts of the ten kings that would make them only symbols. The other use of numbers in Daniel 2, 7, Revelation 13 and 17 seem to be used in a more literal way.
For example, in Daniel 2 and 7 we find four kingdoms and that number is literal. Other numbers in these chapters (such as the seven kingdoms in Revelation 17 and the four heads of the leopard) are literal. The eleventh horn, the Antichrist, is also clearly literal. If the eleventh horn is literal, why would the other ten be symbolic?
Who are the Ten Kings?
When it comes to identifying the nations where these ten kings will come from we must first know the general location of the Antichrist’s empire. Many Christians believe that the Antichrist will come from a revived Roman Empire so the ten kings will need to be European. In recent decades, the European Union has gained attention for possibly being related to this part of prophecy.
However, I have argued in other articles that the Roman Empire does not fulfill the requirements of the kingdom of the Antichrist. Instead, a Middle Eastern background for the last tyrant in history better fits the details. I will make further comments throughout this discussion on why the ten kings are not European.
One of the most important details about the ten kings (and one of the most overlooked) comes from Daniel 2. In this chapter, the Kings are symbolized as ten toes. Just like on real people, the statue has five on one foot and five on the other. As I have pointed out in another article, the thighs of the statue represent the eastern and western portions of Alexander the Great’s Empire. After his death, Alexander’s kingdom split into two major portions known as the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires. The fourth kingdom, the iron legs, emerges out of the thighs. The Seleucids ruled from the area of Syria eastwards to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Ptolemy family ruled Egypt, the Holy Land, and other parts of Northeast Africa.
The fourth kingdom, which I believe is the Islamic Caliphate, was represented by the legs of iron and naturally they emerged from the thighs. This seems to imply heavily that five of the kings will emerge from the western portion (Ptolemaic) of the old Caliphate while five will emerge from eastern division (Seleucids). This means that five of the ten kings will emerge from the area around Israel westwards into northern Africa. The other five will rise from the eastern sections of the biblical world (see below for a more detailed discussion of this).
The Western Kings and the Three that were Uprooted
This brings us to the identification of these kings. Daniel 11:40-45 supplies us with some details that may tell us the locations of the three kings who the Antichrist will “uproot” (and possibly the name of a fourth king). Daniel 11:42-43 tells us that the Antichrist will conquer Egypt, Libya (which could include other nations of North Africa), and Nubia (modern-day Sudan). Could it be that these countries are the three who fall? Early Christians such as Hippolytus and Jerome believed that these three nations were the ones who would fall before the Antichrist.
11:41 also mentions the ancient nations of Edom, Moab, and Ammon. These three countries are said to escape the hand of the Antichrist. This indicates that they will not be conquered by the Antichrist. However, does this mean that they will have nothing to do with the kingdom of the Antichrist or that they simply submit to him by their free will? These three countries make up the modern nation of Jordan. So we may have here three, or possibly four, of the five western kings.
When discussing the three kings that are uprooted, we run into a possible contradiction. Daniel 7:8, 20, and 24 say that the Antichrist will subdue three kings yet Revelation 17 says that all ten of them follow the Antichrist. Why would the Antichrist conquer three of his followers? How could there be ten nations that follow the Antichrist if three have been taken out? Wouldn’t that make them “the seven kings”?
The first explanation is that ten kings submit to the Antichrist before or early in the tribulation. Then sometime later he completely conquers three of them, and they become seven instead of ten. There is, I believe, another possible answer. Let’s take a look at the three verses that speak about these three nations and the Aramaic language that is employed:
7:8 says, “three of the first horns were uprooted before it.” The Aramaic Aqar, translated “uprooted,” refers to plucking something up by its roots. It has to do with tearing something up; destroying it. This word is pointing to the fact that the Antichrist is tearing these rulers out of their respective countries.
7:20 says, “before which three of them fell…” The Aramaic word Nephal, translated “fell,” is commonly used for someone paying homage to a human being or an image (to prostrate oneself). It can also mean to die.
7:24 says, “he will subdue three kings.” Here we have the Aramaic word shephal translated as “subdue.” It means “to humble.”
A possible interpretation is the Antichrist invades these nations to humble them and to force them to give him their allegiance. To do so seems to imply that he will remove (uproot) the leaders and possibly put into power puppet rulers to do his bidding. So he may not completely destroy them but only humble the country and force them to obey him (this may indicate they were having second thoughts of following him).
The Kings of the East
Revelation 16:12 tells us about the kings of the east. It is very possible that these rulers will be the five who emerge from the eastern portion of Alexander’s empire (the Seleucids). The same verse also speaks about the Euphrates River drying up. This supports the idea that the East is equivalent to the region east of the Euphrates. This would include nations such as Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the nations of Central Asia, and perhaps even Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia (could these last three count since they do not fall into the region of the Seleucid Empire?).
Because the kings of the east seem to have a connection with the army of 200 million (Revelation 9:16) it is interesting to note that it is in South and Southeast Asia where the largest numbers of Muslims reside. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world (around 200 million) and has one of the most powerful militaries in the world (#12 in 2015). Other nations in the east with large populations of Muslims include Pakistan (175 million and which has nuclear weapons), Bangladesh (145 million), and India (which is not Muslim but has around 160 million of them). Both Bangladesh and Pakistan have the manpower for a military to number in the tens of millions while Indonesia has over 100 million men of military age.
Yet to receive a kingdom
This brings us to Revelation 17:12 that adds that the ten horns are kings that have yet to receive a kingdom. What does this mean? It is referring to the preceding verses (9-11) which speak about the seven heads of the beast. These heads are said to be seven kings/kingdoms and are usually interpreted to be Egypt, Assyrian (northern Iraq), Babylon, (southern Iraq), Medo-Persia (Iran), Greece, Rome, and either some European nation or the Islamic Caliphate (Arabia). This seems to indicate that none of these nations could be any of the ten kings.
This causes a problem for Egypt, Iraq, and Iran being members of the ten King alliance. If Egypt is the first kingdom/head of the beast then Egypt, along with Libya and Sudan, in Daniel 11 are not the three kings to be uprooted by the Antichrist. However, there is a possible alternative explanation that would allow Egypt to be one of the ten (along with Libya and Sudan). This alternative is that Canaan is the first head.
The seven heads/empires each have a connection to Israel. The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC; the Babylonians took control of Jerusalem and Judah in 586 BC, etc. Each of these kingdoms in turn conquered at least portions of the previous empires. The Assyrians were defeated by the Babylonians, the Babylonians by the Persians, etc.
Egypt could very well be the first empire since they enslaved the Israelites (which ended with the Exodus). However, Canaan could also fit the first head since they were conquered by the Israelites after the Exodus. Please understood that I am not saying for sure if Canaan was the first kingdom. I believe that it is a possibility only. If Egypt is not the first empire then it may be one of the ten kings; if it is the first one, then it cannot be one of the ten. If it is not, then Egypt, Libya, and Sudan may just be added to the kingdom of the eleventh horn (the Antichrist) only and will not have any independence that the ten kings seem to have. Other possibilities for the western kings could include Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Somalia, Albania, Yemen, or a host of other Muslim countries in the African, Mediterranean, and Arab regions.
Concerning Iraq, it is probable that since the Antichrist is called the Assyrian in Micah 5:5-6 and is called the king of the north in Daniel 11 then it is likely that Iraq will be part of the kingdom of the Antichrist.
What about Iran? Since Iran is Medo-Persia, and if the kingdom interpretation of Revelation 17 is correct, then it is highly unlikely that Iran is one of the ten kings. Iran is symbolized as a part of the beast in Revelation 13 as the feet and is mentioned as fighting with the Antichrist in Ezekiel 38:5 so it is clear that they do take part in the end-times. If they are not one of the ten than it is possible that the Antichrist will have direct control over Iran.
The identification of the ten kings of the beast is difficult. They are a group of nations that are given power alongside the Antichrist just prior to the return of Christ. In fact, they are so important to the end-times that Scripture heavily implies that they are the Antichrist’s power base (if it wasn’t for them he might not have the power and authority he will have). Exactly who they are is difficult to determine and this may need to wait until the prophecy is being fulfilled.
 Robert H. Mounce. The Book of Revelation. In “The New International Commentary on the New Testament.” Revised (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997). 319; G.K. Beale. The Book of Revelation. In “The New International Greek Testament Commentary” (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999). 878-879. John MacArthur. The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005). 2017. Muncie believes that the number ten equals completeness (319). MacArthur says they represent “the totality of human military and political power assisting the beast (Antichrist) as he controls the world” (2017). Beale believes that the number ten represents their great power, “may also highlight ‘the multiplicity of sovereignties in confederacy that enhance the power of the beast.’” Beale believes that they spannthe ages and represent future kings (878-879).
 Sinclair Ferguson. “Daniel” in New Bible Commentary. G.J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson and R.T. France eds. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994). 757.
 William Hendriksen. More Than Conquerors (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1967). 171.
 Leon Wood. A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973). 70, 72, 187-188, 200. John C. Whitcomb. Daniel (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1985). 49, 102. John F. Walvoord. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989). 175. John F. Walvoord. The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989). 255. Mark Hitchcock. The End (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2012). 245ff.
 Wood, 187; MacArthur, 957; Whitcomb, 49; Walvoord, Revelation, 197, 255; Hitchcock, 248; Fergusen, 757.
 Hitchcock is not for sure if the ten kings are related to the EU, but he does think that the ten kings will be something like the G-7, G-8, etc. (245-246, 251). He also thinks that they rise up to protect the interests of the Western World (245). I, of course, disagree with this since, as I mention in the body of the text, that the Antichrist will have a Middle Eastern background. Mounce is clear that he does not think that the ten kings have anything to do with a revived Roman Empire or the EU (319).
 Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and the Antichrist. Jerome, Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures, vol. 13 (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 301. In Joel Richardson. Mideast Beast (New York: WND Books, 2012). 122-123.
 One problem with Canaan being the first kingdom is that it was never a unified kingdom under one ruler as the other empires were. This may disqualify it from consideration.