Illustration copyrighted by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society
The Watchtower’s Pay Attention to Daniel's Prophecy book provides Bible students with a valuable historical background into the book of Daniel. (The meaning of the enigmatic Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin is one example that comes to mind.) But beginning the week of November 7th the congregation book study schedule gets into the part of the "Pay Attention" book that delves deeper into prophetic interpretations and their modern day fulfillments.
For those uninformed, the Watchtower's prophetic interpretations of Daniel have remained essentially unchanged since they were published in 1958 in the book entitled Your Will Be Done—which means that in nearly a half century there has been virtually no new insights into the outworking of the prophecy of Daniel. Therefore, the purpose of this blog is to provide Jehovah's Witnesses with a concurrently running critical analysis of the Society's teaching and an alternative view of Daniel’s prophecy.
(Page 137 paragraphs 20-22)
There is no question but that the unusually fierce ten-horned beast represents the Roman Empire and its Holy Roman Empire successor. What is less certain is the prophetic identity of the peculiar 11th horn that emerges from among the ten horns and which causes three horns to be plucked out. The verses in question read:
"I kept on considering the horns, and, look! another horn, a small one, came up in among them, and there were three of the first horns that were plucked up from before it. And, look! there were eyes like the eyes of a man in this horn, and there was a mouth speaking grandiose things." (Daniel 7:8)
"And as for the ten horns, out of that kingdom there are ten kings that will rise up; and still another one will rise up after them, and he himself will be different from the first ones, and three kings he will humiliate. And he will speak even words against the Most High, and he will harass continually the holy ones themselves of the Supreme One." (Daniel 7:24-25)
Under the sub-heading A Small Horn Gains Ascendancy, the Watchtower identifies Great Britain and the United States as the small horn. Paragraph 22 states:
In 1588, Philip II of Spain launched the Spanish Armada against Britain. This fleet of 130 ships, carrying more than 24,000 men, sailed up the English Channel, only to suffer defeat by the British navy and to fall victim to contrary winds and fierce Atlantic storms. This event "marked the decisive passing of naval superiority from Spain to England," said one historian. In the 17th century, the Dutch developed the world's largest merchant marine. With growing overseas colonies, however, Britain prevailed over that kingdom. During the 18th century, the British and the French fought each other in North America and India, leading to the Treaty of Paris in 1763. This treaty, said author William B. Willcox, "recognized Britain's new position as the predominant European power in the world beyond Europe." Britain’s supremacy was confirmed by the crushing victory over Napoléon of France in 1815 C.E. The "three kings" that Britain thus 'humiliated' were Spain, the Netherlands, and France. (Daniel 7:24) As a result, Britain emerged as the world's greatest colonial and commercial power. Yes, the "small" horn grew to become a world power!
According to the Society's view, the three horns were not plucked out simultaneously---as a straightforward reading of the prophecy would seem to suggest---but rather, individually, over a period spanning 227 years! (From 1588 to 1815)
Not only that, but because the Society also identifies the United States with the ascending small horn, and the Anglo-American alliance did not even begin to take shape until the US entered WWI in 1917 on the side of Great Britain, it would seem that the little horn has been gradually budding for nearly 400 years! And taking the Society's interpretation at face value, what is even more difficult to comprehend is that we would also have to conclude that the emerging little horn plucked out his three competitors long before he gained full stature as the modern day Anglo-American dyad. But how reasonable is that?
Besides, the defeat of the Spanish Armada was not so much due to British naval superiority anyway. The Spanish Armada more or less defeated itself. Sailing ships, such as comprised the Spanish Armada, are naturally subject to the fickle winds of fate. Contrary winds and poorly built sailing vessels---more than British strategy or strength---foiled the invasion of Britain.
But, there is no question it was a great moral victory for Queen Elizabeth's England. And while the defeat of the Spanish Armada was a corresponding humiliation for King Phillip of Spain, since he had personally overseen the actual design of many of the ships that failed to withstand the heavy seas and he also apparently devised the failed battle plan, still, the monarchy was not toppled nor was the empire uprooted. Phillip is quoted as saying 'I had intended to fight England, not the weather.'
According to a BBC historical documentary even after the loss of part of the Spanish navy "the Anglo-Spanish war was to all intents a stalemate, for neither side was able to attack the other effectively, but even this result showed that there were limits to Spanish power. On a one to one basis England was clearly much weaker than Spain, but Elizabeth had demonstrated successfully that of all Philip's contemporaries in Europe she was the most dangerous enemy."
So, even though a battle was won, Great Britain was not immediately transformed into the master empire in the 16th Century---even as the Daniel book makes note of. It would be nearly 200 years before Britannia would reign supreme. As far as geo-politically decisive naval battles go, the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 was much more historically significant in terms of establishing British imperial dominance.
In view of all of the above here are a few questions for reasoning Bible students to consider:
Is it reasonable that the little horn would take centuries to emerge?
Is it logical that the three horns (kings) are supplanted individually over centuries of time? For example, how can it be that the little horn supposedly supplanted one king (Spain) nearly two centuries before the British Empire fully emerged as the most dominant power on earth?
And does it make sense that the little horn with eyes and a mouth supplanted his rivals long before he began to speak grandiose things against God and persecute the sons of the kingdom?
Bible students should take note of the fact that two other places in prophecy depict a powerful political agency exalting itself above all others and speaking grandiose words against God himself. Notably, Daniel 11: 36 says of the king of the north: "And the king will actually do according to his own will, and he will exalt himself and magnify himself above every god; and against the God of gods he will speak marvelous things. And he will certainly prove successful until the denunciation will have come to a finish; because the thing decided upon must be done."
The Watchtower, of course, assigns the fulfillment of this prophecy to the now-nonexistent Soviet Union. (Topic of future discussion)
Also, the 13th chapter of Revelation symbolizes the seven-headed beast after it miraculously recovers from a mortal wound, saying of it: "And a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies was given it, and authority to act forty-two months was given it. And it opened its mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name and his residence, even those residing in heaven."
Let it be noted that a mouth is given to the beast after it recovered from its death-stroke. Since the Watchtower identifies the little horn with the seventh head of the seven headed beast, how is it that in the Watchtower's interpretation the little horn has a mouth centuries before the time when the Anglo-American king is supposed to have received his death wound during World War One? Was the horn mute all those centuries? Related to that, given that the death-stroke upon the beast is a significant event in the out-working of God’s purpose---commencing a period of judgment---why is it that Daniel's prophecy seemingly makes no allusion to that event? Really, thinking Bible students ought to ponder the question as to why Jehovah God would presumably reveal such relatively trivial events of history through prophecy, such as the defeat of the Spanish Armada, which occurred centuries before the time of the end, even by the Society's reckoning.
As to the identity of the little horn, Jehovah's Witnesses should take note of the fact that the 17th chapter of Revelation also depicts a beast with 10 horns representing 10 kings. (Just as the beast of Daniel has 10 horns) Those kings are said to give their authority to the beast for one hour. After the 10 kings abdicate their own sovereignty the seven-headed beast then becomes the 8th king. The only way to harmonize the prophecies is to interpret that little horn, the lastly emerging 11th horn of Daniel’s 10-horned beast, as the yet-to-appear 8th and final king that rules for "one hour." The humiliation of the three kings before the ascendant little horn is a future event. Quite likely it has to do with the downfall of the Anglo-American, democratic system globally.
Interestingly, the 11th chapter of Daniel, verses 42-43, foretells that the king of the north will also subjugate three powerful kings during the time of the end; namely, Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia. (For further discussion of that topic see the essay Doom of the Anglo-American Dyad) These likely correspond to the three horns that are plucked up and humiliated the little horn.
THE SMALL HORN OPPOSES GOD AND HIS HOLY ONES
Paragraph 29 states: "For the anointed Christians, World War I meant a time of testing. By the end of 1914, they were expecting persecution. In fact, the very yeartext chosen for 1915 was Jesus’ question to his disciples, "Are ye able to drink of my cup?" It was based on Matthew 20:22, King James Version. Hence, beginning in December 1914, that small band of witnesses preached "in sackcloth."
Is it really true? In what sense did the Bible Students put on symbolic sackcloth and preach in a humiliated state beginning in 1914? In reality, the Bible Students were in a state of elation because it seemed to them that their 1914 expectations were on the mark. And Russell continued to travel the country showing the Photo-drama of Creation to large audiences. In fact, C.T. Russell continued traveling and preaching up until his death in October 1916. The notion that the Bible Students preached in sackcloth from 1914 on is mere Watchtower lore---a fiction spun to fit their elaborate but artificial construal of prophecy. More than anything else, the death of Charles Russell is what stumbled the Bible Students. That's because so many of them were mere followers of a charismatic leader.
Paragraphs 30-31 in the Pay Attention book go on to say:
As war fever took hold, the anointed Christians encountered mounting opposition. Some of them were imprisoned. Individuals, such as Frank Platt in England and Robert Clegg in Canada, were tortured by sadistic authorities. On February 12, 1918, the British Dominion of Canada banned the recently published seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures, entitled The Finished Mystery, as well as the tracts entitled The Bible Students Monthly. The following month, the U.S. Department of Justice pronounced the distribution of the seventh volume illegal. The result? Why, homes were searched, literature was confiscated, and Jehovah’s worshipers were arrested!
Harassment of God's anointed ones climaxed on June 21, 1918, when the president, J. F. Rutherford, and prominent members of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society were sentenced on false charges to long prison terms. Intending "to change times and law," the "small" horn had effectively killed the organized preaching work. (Revelation 11:7) So the foretold period of "a time, and times and half a time" ended in June 1918.
The absurdity of the Watchtower's teaching becomes evident if we simply reason upon the Scriptures. As regards the 3 ½ times, Daniel 12:7 correspondingly indicates that after the designated period of persecution “all these things will come to their finish.” That verse reads: “It will be for an appointed time, appointed times and a half. And as soon as there will have been a finishing of the dashing of the power of the holy people to pieces, all these things will come to their finish.”
We might entertain the following questions: In what way were the holy ones "dashed to pieces" in 1917-18? Keep in mind Rutherford and company were only imprisoned for a few months and most of the International Bible Students back then did not personally face any sort of persecution. The persecutions during the Holocaust period were far, far worse. Yet, how can that fact be harmonized with the 12th chapter of Daniel, which quite clearly indicates that the persecutions of the holy ones are brought to a finish after the appointed time for such expire? Obviously "all these things" did not come to their finish in 1918.
Furthermore, if the kingdom was given to the holy ones in 1914, so that all the kingdoms of the world should serve them, why is it that the Anglo-American king continues to reign supreme? Worded differently, if God's awesome judgment was leveled against the beast in 1914, why has it been business as usual all these decades since Jehovah supposedly took away the beast's authority?
In actuality, a study of the Society's prophetic interpretations is an exercise in unraveling "artfully contrived false stories," which is what the Watchtower's 1914 doctrine is.