Heads, Mountains, and Kings
What Are These Symbols in Revelation 17?
There have been many interpretations of the 3 symbols introduced in Revelation 17:9-10,
but most of them have been deficient because they have failed to take into account
some facts which would clarify the understanding in light of history. They
also fail to properly identify the beast itself, which would greatly aid in understanding
the heads. Many consider that the heads are kingdoms. Some think that
the mountains are literal and not at all symbolic. The kings are usually taken
to be political kings. But are these things so? What is the truth about
The author has undertaken a study from other parts of the Bible to determine the proper interpretation of the symbols employed in Revelation 17:9-10. The results indicate that the following are the identity of the of the heads, mountain, and kings as a group where they are equated together:
Since these are all equated together in Revelation 17:9-10 (7 heads = 7 mountains and = 7 kings), then when the interpretation of each of these symbols is combined, the following understanding emerges:
This interpretation of these symbols is not meant to destroy the other symbolic meanings they have, but for purposes of Revelation 17 where these symbols are equated together, it is clear that the interpretations listed above are part of the intended meanings where the symbols are linked. Heads, for example, clearly are used to represent both kingdoms and the time period the heads symbolize, but at the same time, the interpretations above are clearly the intended meaning. But when combined, they are linked together and have a common function - to help in identification of themselves and the beast.
The 8th is neither a head nor a mountain nor a king. Thus, he is not a line of kings, he is not a group of gods, and he is not the founder of a name given to a line of kings. This does not mean he cannot be an individual king and does not mean he cannot be a god, for he can be each of these individually. As an individual who is not a line of kings and not a group of gods, this means that he cannot be the founder of a name given to a line of kings. Thus the interpretation fits.
With this understanding of the heads before you, consider who this applies to. There are some individuals who consider the heads of the scarlet beast of Revelation 17 to be a sequence of ancient kingdoms that usually progress to modern day times. However, what kingdoms would fit such a definition? It is true that some of the kingdoms they select from history did in fact have leaders who were considered gods, but that is not true of all of them. Ancient Rome, for example, had some leaders who considered themselves to be gods, but that was not true of all of the leaders of ancient Rome. In addition, the leaders of ancient Rome were not named after the founders of each of the 6 or 7 lines of government Rome experimented with. So, should it apply? I think not. One of the most import reasons is because the Bible never applied blasphemy to any of the beasts of Daniel 7 (the dreadful or 4th beast). Remember that blasphemy is defined as taking on the powers of God, thereby making oneself into God. What the Bible does apply blasphemy to is the talking horn of Daniel 7 that comes AFTER the time period or kingdom represented by the body of the dreadful beast. It is also applied to the leopard beast of Revelation 13, and the scarlet beast of Revelation 17. These powers all represented the Papacy.
There are no political empires today in existence that fits. The Papacy is the only power thus described. So, consider that it is the Papacy that is being described by these symbols.
Would you like to see the evidence that the interpretations of these symbols are
true? If so, scroll down below and begin reading, or else click on each section
below and you can learn for yourself that these assertions are backed up by both
history and the Bible itself.
Evidence that kings are a line of kings who rule a religious or political kingdom.
The evidence that kings in Revelation 17 are a line of kings comes directly out of the book of Daniel. To begin, look at Daniel 7:17. Here is what it says:
Dan 7:17 - These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
Now here it equates the four beast to four kings, yet at the same time, an unspoken revelation has happened about the word "kings" itself. Note that each of these kingdoms had a line of rulers that was anywhere from short to long in duration and number of members. The kingdom of Alexander the Great was probably the shortest of them all, but Greece and Rome both produced a long line of rulers. In the case of Rome, they were counted as kings even though they were not actual kings (except at the beginning of Rome's history long before it became an empire) since Rome actually had 6 or 7 different forms of government before it fell in 476 AD. Of course, that is why Daniel 7 says that the fourth kingdom would be different from those coming before it.
But is this observation about kings true elsewhere in Daniel? The answer is
Dan 7:23 - Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.
Dan 7:24 - And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
Note that in both of these verses, the term kings again refers to a line of rulers. The fourth beast, of course, refers to Pagan Rome. The ten horns out of Rome were political kingdoms which, with the exception of the three that were uprooted, had literal lines of kings ruling over them for centuries. So, each of them was a true line of kings. The same thing was true of the talking horn. The talking horn was the Papacy in its medieval form during the 1260 days, so it had a long line of kings ruling it as well. Only after 1798 does God divide up those kings by name.
But note that in each of these verses, it says that each of them would be ruled by a "king", which by now should be seen as a line of kings. This does make sense, does it not?
Now, moving into Daniel 8, here is what it says:
Dan 8:20 - The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.
Dan 8:21 - And the rough goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
Dan 8:22 - Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.
Again, note the use of the word "king" or "kings" for a line of kings. It is true that the dominant power in Medo-Persia ruled over the other kings in that kingdom, so there were sub-kings under the dominant leader. But what is clearly evident from verse 20 is that kings are a line of kings because they were all part of a long line of rulers.
The same thing is evident from the history of the Greeks under Alexander the Great. He died and his generals put a regent on the throne to rule in place of his unborn son until he could become of age, something that never materialized because the half brother was also put on the throne, and he, not being of sound mind, was unable to properly rule. So the kingdom broke up. What is interesting is that this indicates there was more than one ruler to that great horn on the goat, though only the first king got mentioned as being the one it represented, but given that he was the only king of significance, this makes sense.
But there is more in Daniel 8. Here is what is said about the "little horn" power of Daniel 8, which, for very good reasons, many interpret to have been symbolic of Pagan and Papal Rome:
Dan 8:23 - And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
Dan 8:24 - And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
Dan 8:25 - And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.
Again this term "king" shows up in these verses. Since it begins with Pagan Rome, we know that they were a long line of rulers. The same was true of Papal Rome, which this horn also represents. Papal Rome still boasts about the long line of popes they have had, all of whom are counted as kings and rulers.
In conclusion, it is clear that in Daniel, the term "kings" refers
to a long line of rulers starting from the founding member of an empire. This
means that a king, as used in apocalyptic literature in the Bible, should be seen
as a long line of rulers with a common founder. It is a group with more than
Evidence that heads are the name of the founder of a line of kings.
This is a symbol that is less evident than some others, but there is reasonable evidence for it in the Bible. To begin, consider the following verses from Daniel 2:
Dan 2:37 - Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given
thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
Dan 2:38 - And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.
Now, notice here that Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that God had given him a kingdom, and then turns around and says that Nebuchadnezzar is that head of gold. This is rather similar to naming the kingdom after Nebuchadnezzar, is it not? He did not say that Nebuchadnezzar was only the ears or the nose or the forehead of that head. No, instead he said he was the head - that should mean all of it.
That is a bit odd, when you think about it, because Nebuchadnezzar was only the founder of an empire as seen from our perspective. He had descendants after him who ruled Babylon in his place. But, though the kings who came after him were not named after him, God here names the empire after the founding king. Also, by doing that, God puts a name to the head - Nebuchadnezzar.
Something similar is done with the great horn between the eyes of the goat in Daniel 8. Here it is stated that the great horn was the first king of Greece who would destroy the Persian empire. That great horn was followed by 4 more horns. That first horn was not just Alexander the Great, however, in what it represented, for he was followed by his unborn son for whom a regent was appointed, and his half brother who was mentally incompetent to rule. Thus, by history we know that the great horn represented a line of kings, of whom Alexander the Great was the founder and for whom it was obviously named, for it did say that the horn was the first king, just like the head of gold on the image in Daniel 2 was Nebuchadnezzar.
Historians have also named empires after the founding member of the royal family or government of that empire. For example, the Seleucid empire which was one of the four empires that came out of Greece after Alexander died and his descendants failed to govern properly. This empire was named after the founding member of that royal family, the Seleucids. The same thing was done with the name of the Ptolomies of Egypt, which also came out of Alexander the Great's empire. A fellow by the name of Ptolomy founded that empire. There are even examples of this with Britain to some extent. Have you ever heard of the House of Windsor or the House of Tudor?
Therefore, as one can see, this has been a custom to some extent even of modern day historians. The examples from the Bible are reasonably sufficient to establish that heads can have names attached to them - the name of the founder of a line of kings.
In Revelation 17, it is obvious that there are 7 kings and history demonstrates
7 names of popes that have existed since 1798. Since the body of the scarlet
beast is Papal, it stands to reason by the
that the heads should be religious (like the body), and in fact should be Papal.
This is compatible with the interpretation that the heads are names. That being
given, it is then up to the reader to determine the remaining symbols.
Evidence that Mountains are gods.
There is a statement by Hans Biedermann in his book, "A Dictionary of Symbolism", in which the following is said on page 228:
"The ziggurat structures of ancient Mesopotamia were architectural translations of DIVINE MOUNTAINS; the mountain is the abode for the gods."
In Babylon at the time of Daniel from the Bible, gods were associated with mountains. This Babylonian viewpoint as mentioned by Hans Biedermann in his book, A Dictionary of Symbolism, is not out of order with viewpoints of other ancient peoples, including the Israelites and the Jews. There is evidence that God himself made reference to these things as well and even claimed mountains for himself.
To begin, ancient peoples in the Middle East often saw gods as being local and even living in a certain location. This is exemplified in several places in the Bible as well. For example, when Ezra went to Jerusalem, he got a decree from Artaxerxes I, and one of the statements this king made in his decree reveals this type of thinking:
Ezr 7:15 - And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counselors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
This links a location with the residence of a God.
Here are more verses that give a similar description of the attitude of the pagans regarding the residency of the gods to exact or relatively specific locations:
2Ki 17:24 - And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.
2Ki 17:25 - And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them.
2Ki 17:26 - Wherefore they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land.
2Ki 17:27 - Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land.
2Ki 17:28 - Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.
2Ki 17:29 - Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt.
Here is more about this:
1Ki 20:22 - And the prophet came to the king of Israel, and said unto him, Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest: for at the return of the year the king of Syria will come up against thee.
1 Ki 20:23 - And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely, we shall be stronger than they.
Here is another example from a speech a representative of Sennacherib made outside the gates of Jerusalem:
2Ki 18:33 - Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
2Ki 18:34 - Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?
2Ki 18:35 - Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?
God himself uses such symbolism in speaking to the Israelites. Here is an example where he did this:
2Ch 25:15 Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Amaziah, and he sent unto him a prophet, who said unto him, Why have you sought after the gods of the people, who could not deliver their own people out of your hand?
Amaziah had just won a battle against the children of Seir (descendents of Esau), but afterwards he carried their gods home and started to worship them. God then sent a prophet to make the statement recorded in the verse above to him. It clearly shows that even God recognized that the Israelites held the concept that the gods held the power to deliver someone from the hand of an enemy. If that were not so, then it seems very likely that God would have said this verse quite differently.
The Israelites built high places like the Babylonians who built ziggurats (high places too, were they not?) on which to make offerings to their pagan gods. The Babylonians believed that ziggurats were a translation of divine mountains and that the gods lived in mountains, so in order to communicate with their gods, one had to go to a mountain and make offerings and prayers there. The Israelites had a similar attitude for they built high places on which they offered their sacrifices. The Bible speaks extensively about this in regards to the worship practices of backslidden Israel. Here are a couple of examples:
2Ki 21:3 - For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them.
2Ki 23:5 - And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
Therefore, it seems they had similar attitudes and practices, though there were variations.
Now, what is interesting is that the Bible associates gods with mountains. Here are some examples where that is done:
Deu 12:2 - Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:
2Ch 21:11 - Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto.
Isa 65:7 - Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the LORD, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom.
Jer 3:23 - Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.
Why look to the hills for salvation, unless they believed that the gods resided there?
Eze 6:13 - Then shall ye know that I am the LORD, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savor to all their idols.
Though it is true that mountains were not the only places associated with these pagan gods in ancient Israel, the mountains and high places certainly did play a prominent role in these pagan worship practices of the Israelites. Thus, it is NOT a strange thing that mountains should be seen as an abode for the gods, for certainly it is very true that the Israelites did see them as dwelling in the mountains or they would not have been worshipping there.
Something even more interesting is that the Bible declares that God has mountains associated with Himself as well. Here is what it says about a couple of these:
Exo 24:13 - And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.
Isa 8:18 - Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
Rev 14:1 - And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.
Psa 68:16 - Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it forever.
Exo 18:5 - And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:
Exo 4:27 - And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.
The point of all this is that the Babylonian attitude as expressed by Hans Biedermann in his Dictionary of Symbolism, is not far at all from what we are told about mountains in the Bible. Divine beings were associated with these. And the same attitude is clearly present within the community of the Israelites and Jews as recorded in the Bible for all to read.
This is made clearer by the example in Daniel 2, where Nebuchadnezzar was told that a rock cut out of a mountain without hands would strike the image and destroy it. This rock would then grow until it became a mountain that would fill the entire earth. Since Nebuchadnezzar saw mountains as an abode for the gods, he would naturally understand that the rock from the mountain that strikes the image contained gods - and he was right! That rock represents the second coming of Jesus, who certainly is a God. Even more interesting is that Nebuchadnezzar could easily have seen this as a battle between two mountains: one mountain being the pagan gods of Babylon, and the other the mountain of God.
Based on history, we know that the Babylonians believed that a mountain contained many gods.
Do you remember the story of Balaam? You know the story probably - the guy with the talking donkey! Now, something interesting about that story is that several times the king had Balaam try to curse the people of Israel, but each time he tried, God controlled what he would say. The result, of course, was that Balaam blessed Israel every time he opened his mouth to curse them. This really frustrated the king. He was furious as he wanted them cursed, not blessed. But something interesting happened with each cursing attempt. Notice that the king had Balaam stand on a hill or mountain near the camp when he would try to curse the Israelites. Each time it failed, he would move him to a different hill or mountain. Why move to a different hill? Consider that the ancients of that time believed that gods lived in the mountains, and they sometimes associated different gods with different hills. So, moving Balaam around to a different hill was quite likely a way of trying to get a different god to control Balaam's speech so that he would curse the Israelites rather than bless them. But it did not work, of course, because the true God controlled what he would say.
Revelation 17 draws a great deal of information from Jeremiah 51, so that is where the next focus will be at. Consider first this verse:
Jer 51:25 - Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the LORD, which destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.
What does God mean by calling Babylon a destroying mountain? It cannot be literal because there are no mountains around Babylon. So it must be symbolic of something.
Many think that the mountain in this verse is a symbol of a nation or empire, and that is true. But, again, like is done in so many other places in the Bible, there are multiple interpretations of a given symbol. That is the case with this word mountain in Jeremiah 51:25. There are other interpretation and one of them is more consistent with the interpretation of the other symbols in Revelation 17. That interpretation is that the mountain is a symbol of gods. Consider the verses below for information about this.
Jer 51:44 - And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed up: and the nations shall not flow together any more unto him: yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall.
Jer 51:47 - Therefore, behold, the days come, that I will do judgment upon the graven images of Babylon: and her whole land shall be confounded, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.
Jer 51:52 - Wherefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will do judgment upon her graven images: and through all her land the wounded shall groan.
Now, remember that the Israelites (and Babylonians) saw mountains as being associated with the gods. God made use of this association when He said He was going to destroy the "destroying mountain". By saying this, He was indicating that He was going to destroy the gods of Babylon and He was also saying that the mountain that He used to symbolize Babylon contained many gods that He was going to destroy.
Why is this true? The term mountain as used in verse 25 is a symbol of something else that is associated with mountains, so since historically gods were associated with mountains by the people of that time, it is clear that mountains are a symbol of gods. God goes on to prove this by saying in verses 44, 47, and 52, that He will execute judgment against the gods of Babylon. Note that Bel was a chief god in Babylonian thinking.
Here is the definition of the word symbol as used in the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (computer edition - 2002):
something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance; especially : a visible sign of something invisible "the lion is a symbol of courage"
Note that from this definition we can understand that when we find a symbol, we can understand the underlying meaning by looking for associations of things with the symbol (or use other forms of the definition to help in understanding). In the case of the word mountain, it is very clear from Jeremiah 51 that when God uses the word mountain, he is really referring to the many gods of Babylon.
One final thought. Because the seven heads of Revelation 17 are Papal, the mountains of Revelation 17 cannot symbolize kingdoms. This is shown to us by the information about the 8th king. Note that Revelation 17 does NOT say that he is a mountain, something that is very important. Here is how we know this to If the 8th is an individual king (but not a "king" in the sense of Daniel 7, meaning he is not a line of kings), he still must have a kingdom. Some might say that the 8th has no kingdom and is like the ten horns who are kings for a while before they get their kingdom. But those who say this are not understanding things right. Others may argue that he is a king but has a literal political kingdom (which is not correct because he is Papal, not a political king of the earth). The talking horn king in Daniel 7:25 became a king because he obtained a kingdom, or in other words, he became the beast. This means he was given civil power over the people of God and, therefore, he obtained his kingdom at that point in time just as will happen with the ten horns someday soon. The talking horn receiving his kingdom is symbolized in Daniel 7 by his rising up out of the head of the beast in Daniel 7, an event that happened in 538. Now, the 8th IS the beast, meaning that just as the original beast became the beast by getting civil power, so the returned beast will come back by getting civil power all over again, meaning he will get his kingdom back. So, one can say that because the 8th will get the kingdom back, that clearly implies that prior to him, the seven have no kingdom. They are kings without a kingdom. If they had a kingdom, then they would have the civil power already and would be the returned beast and would not be described as seven heads, which we know is not the case. Therefore, the seven mountains cannot represent kingdoms so must have another symbolic meaning. Do you follow this? I know that it is a bit convoluted, but is true. The logic is correct.
Thus, in conclusion, it is apparent from scripture that the term mountain can refer
to a group of gods. Therefore, when we read Revelation 17:9-10, we should
see each mountain referring to a group of gods.
Now what is the connection between the heads, kings, and mountains? The heads are said to be both mountains and kings. Heads can be said to represent the names of the popes, it can be said to represent powers, it can also be said to represent the founder of a line of kings (Nebuchadnezzar was told he was the head of Gold, after all, and he was the founder of a line of kings of an empire), and it can represent an empire. Kings are the representative of a line of kings so are very similar to heads in nature. Mountains each contain a collection of gods, so to say kings are mountains is to say that each line of kings is in fact a line of gods. That is the connection: The heads and kings are gods.
Then, if heads are the names of the founders of lines of kings and kings are lines of kings and mountains are gods, this must mean that the kings are lines of kings whose names are taken from the founders of the lines and who are considered gods. That is the only synthesis of the interpretations that makes any sense.
This is one thing that is missing in so many other interpretations of the heads of the scarlet beast of Revelation 17. Proponents of many of these views try to make the heads be ancient kingdoms of various sorts, but ancient political kingdoms are not gods. God himself never made that association in Daniel with the ancient kingdoms that were shown. This lack of identification of gods with the ancient sequential kingdoms (such as Babylon or Medo-Persia) is a fatal flaw in the reasoning used to connect the heads to ancient sequential kingdoms. This connection of the heads to the mountains, which in turn are connected to the gods elsewhere in the Bible, tells you that the heads and kings must in some way be religious kingdoms, which rules out most currently known interpretations. The heads of the scarlet beast being religious kingdoms is consistent with the concept that the scarlet beast itself is religious.
Daniel makes no statements indicating that the kingdoms mentioned in his vision of Daniel 7 were gods, with the exception of the talking horn, which was said to commit blasphemy, an act that makes it a god because it takes on the powers of a God. That should be very noteworthy. This indicates that the only kingdom in Daniel that is considered a god from a biblical standpoint was the talking horn - the Papacy. Thus the same should be noted of the leopard beast of Revelation 13 and the scarlet beast of Revelation 17 for it commits blasphemy, something that only a religious power does. Secular powers in Daniel and Revelation don't do that. Even the dragon in Revelation 12 has no blasphemy attached to it.
Therefore, hopefully this helps explain a little better the connection between heads,
kings, and mountains.