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In Rev. 12:3 we see the crowns on the 'Heads', in Rev. 13:1 we see the crowns on the 'Horns'. Since this 'Beast' is Figurative-as those in the 'literalist' camp(J.N. Darby, John Walvoord) would concur, as any other translation would do 'violence' to the text, how do you explain the difference of where the crowns are?

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3 Answers 3

Awesome question! After a bit of research, I've found Leon Morris' answer to be best:

The beast has ten crowns on his horns, which is a curious place for them (Satan has them on the heads, 12:3). But it is a way of stressing that his dominion (diadeœmata are crowns of royalty; see note on 12:3) rests on force, while leaving the heads free for the blasphemous name.

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Thank you for your response! I am attempting to tread in waters that are figurative(some say speculative), but I believe a body of commentary is out there to help us discern these things. Irenaeus speculated the evenual fall of the Roman Empire-but of course he wasn't around to see it.] – Tau Nov 6 '13 at 0:15

Context is the Key

From the question, and by reading the text, it is apparent that the Context is Figurative; therefore it is not the reality in itself but representative of that reality.

Rev. 12:3 says,

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

Rev. 13:1 says,

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

Since it's clear that no such animal exists in nature, nor does the author intend for us to understand this passage in a 'natural'(historical/grammatical) context, we can therefore determine that this passage is to be interpreted "Figuratively", which means that this image is communicating "Truth" in which one must accurately interpret the symbols to arrive at the correct meaning.

Meaning of the Symbols

A Rule of Thumb for interpreting symbolism in Scripture is that if the meaning of the symbol is revealed in Scripture, it maintains that same meaning unless a different meaning is communicated in the same passage.

One such example exists in the Book of Daniel. The "little horn" of Dan. 7:8 has eyes of man, and a mouth that speaks great boasts. This horn arose after 10 horns, and 'pushed' 3 horns away.

However, in the next chapter(Dan. 8:9) a "little horn" arose out of one of the 4 Horns(not 10), and there are no eyes, neither is there a mouth that speaks great boasts. This "little horn" has been identified as Antiochus Epiphanes, who did arise out of the Seleucid Dynasty; stopped the Temple sacrifices, and set up the Abomination that Desolates in 167BC. But the "little horn" of Dan. 7 cannot be confused with the "little horn" of Daniel 8; they are 2 separate horns, which arose out of 2 different sets of horns(10 vs 4). These are 2 separate images in which the Context of the passage is spelled out to determine their meaning.

The Red/Scarlet Dragon is the Beast, or Antichrist. It is also representative of Satan; Rev. 12:9 says,

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

It is important to understand the Context of the Heads and Horns as they relate to the dragon; in Rev. 17:7, the angel tells John,

I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.

The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.(vs 10)

What we are seeing is Satan, "The Scarlet Dragon", manifesting himself through earthly kingdoms. "Kings" in this passage must be rightly interpreted as "kingdoms", since the "one is", could not have been Domitian, who "was" the Roman Emperor when John was exiled on Patmos, and yet there were many more 'emperors' than Domitian. Yet the "Beast" was, and is not; meaning "Rome" was not the future "Antichrist" or "Beast" that we are seeing.

The 10 Horns are(vs 12)

"ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast."

Again, we see that "kingdoms" is the more appropriate interpretation; the likelyhood of 10 'kings' all affecting the world in 1 literal 'hour' is beyond comprehension; also, in Dan. 7:4 we see the same picture of

And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise:

which means these "kingdoms" had time to 'arise', certainly longer than a literal hour.

What about the Crowns?

The "crowns" determine who was reigning at the time. In Rev. 12:3, the "Beast" is seen with "crowns" on the Heads because in vs 5,

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

This is obviously a picture of Christ: Ps. 2:9 talks about how the "Son" will break the nations with a rod of iron. Also, Christ appears during the time of the Roman Empire, the "Head" that is during the Time of John. There is another "Head" nation to come(The Holy Roman Empire), before the crowns appear on the 10 Horns in Rev. 13:1. The 8th "Head" of Rev. 17:11 is

And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.

But since it is a "Beast with 7 Heads and 10 Horns", and not a 'Beast with 8 Heads and 10 Horns', the "Beast" is representative of the 10 Horns, even as he is a 'composite' of the 7 Heads. Therefore, the "Beast" rules with the 10 Horn Kingdoms, which emerge out of the 4th Beast of Daniel(Rome), and rule in their own right after Rome, and the Holy Roman Empire falls.


The Crowns on the Heads of Rev. 12:3 signify that the "Head" kingdoms(of which Rome was one) were in power. The crowns on the "Horns" signify that the Horn kingdoms which arose out of the ashes of Rome and became kingdoms in their own right are in power. The "Beast" which one was, and is not also rules at this time with them.

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Rev. 12:3 describes a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

Rev. 13:1 describes '...a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns and upon his horns ten crowns and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.'

The beast described in the first instance appears to have undergone a metamorphosis when described in the second instance. The crowns have been removed from the heads and now sit on the horns.

We should not miss the significance of this change.

The beast is both spiritual and political. I say this because I note that it has the name of blasphemy on its heads - hence it is spiritual, and it is political because it is able to usurp the power/authority of a sovereign country and give it to political dissidents i.e.horns which are using violent methods to gain power.

Now where are we seeing exactly this happen in the world today? Could it be Syria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon? (I'm Sorry but I can't predict the seventh) NB Lebanon and Syria have competing horns - Hezbollah and Hamas.

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@logic-Thank you for your response and welcome to BH! My guess is that you 'deduce' Islam to be the Antichist/Beast of Rev. 13:1. I think we both agree that the 'Beast' is figurative(the image described is representitive of another reality). Therefore, I would ask if you could examine the figurative 'characteristics' of the Beast and draw the same conclusion. Rev. 13:2 says,"It is like unto a leopard, with his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion.." Where have we seen "leopard", "bear", and "lion" before? In Dan. 7:4-6, the visions of Daniel are described – Tau Feb 18 '14 at 13:28
(cont.) as a "lion", "bear", and "leopard", and they are understood as successive kingdoms(Babylon, Mede/Persia, Greece). But the "Beast" itself is "like unto a leopard" which is Greek. Greeks worshipped a polytheistic set of gods-resembling men, how can this be reconciled to a very 'monotheistic' system of belief who's "Heads" came before Islam? 'Greek' represents western culture and ideas, which are 'anathema' to Islam, how can the Greek Empire be the embodiment' of Islam? Your comments are appreciated. – Tau Feb 18 '14 at 13:41
Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. Please don't post multiple answers to reply to comments on another. Edit the existing answer. – Dan Feb 19 '14 at 2:27
@2479 re The Leopard Lion and Bear Dear user 2479 I must confess I am a bit confounded by the question you have put to me. Before I approach Daniel 7:4-6 I would like to point out that these same beasts are quoted in Hosea 13:7-9 'Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them: I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.' – logic Mar 28 '14 at 10:52
I think that it may be simplistic to always interpret these beasts as the kingdoms of Babylon Mede/Persia and Greece. However if we do accept this interpretation then the conclusion we may draw from Hosea is that God is approaching Ephraim as these kingdoms. So then the question arises - is your understanding concerning these kingdoms relevant in all circumstances of Lion/Leopard/Bear quotes. – logic Mar 28 '14 at 10:54

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