Someone pointed out to me the commentary of Ibn Ezra to Daniel 2:39. In that verse Daniel is understood to be describing the ארבע מלכיות or the four kingdoms. I always understood these four kingdoms to be those which took the dominion of the Jewish people away, and they are Babylon, Persia/Media, Greece and Rome (see beginning of Ner Mitzvah by the Maharal). The Ibn Ezra says this verse references Babylon, Persia/Media and Greece. Part of my problem is I don't understand the rest of what he's saying.

He brings Rav Saadiah Gaon who says the fourth kingdom is Aram. I thought they only existed in the times of Tanach? How could they come after Greece? He then also mentions Yishmael being one of the kingdoms, I think.

The Ibn Ezra sounds like he disagrees, and says Alexander the Great was the ruler of Greece and Aram? Is that so? Then he says Yishmael is the fourth kingdom? What about Rome? Didn't they destroy the Temple?

I'd appreciate some clarification on what the Ibn Ezra/Rav Saadiah Gaon are saying, and if anyone agrees.

  • Maybe they're regarding the Islamic caliphates as "Aram"?
    – Gary
    Jul 4, 2018 at 4:36

2 Answers 2


This edition of Artscroll on Daniel has a lengthy commentary on this verse which addresses, I hope, your question. Here is a summary of what they write

  • The identity of the fourth kingdom is a topic of great controversy which transcends this verse as the theme of the four kingdoms is also found in Daniel (ch. 7), Zechariah (ch. 6) and Hosea (ch. 13) - their commentaries are therefore also relevant
  • The midrashim consistently list Greece (Yavan) as the third kingdom and Rome (Romi) as the fourth
  • This is followed by almost all commentators starting with R Saadiah Gaon (on Ibn Ezra in 2:40 - your question), Rambam and Ramban
  • A notable exception is Ibn Ezra who is followed by Metzudos. This view holds that Rome is included in the third kingdom as relative to the Greeks. The Romans are considered to be the Kittim (Numbers 24:24, Daniel 11:30). The fourth kingdom according to Ibn Ezra is the Arab kingdom
  • Ibn Ezra believes the Edomite exile (galut Edom) is a misnomer and that Rome has no intrinsic tie to Edom. Because the Edomites, age-old sworn enemies of the Jews, were the first to rejoice at Israel's destruction, the exile is called galut Edom
  • The view of the commentary attributed to R Saadiah is very unclear, he seems to lean towards Ibn Ezra's interpretation
  • Why is Ibn Ezra calling Rome, which is Kittim, Aram?
    – robev
    Jul 4, 2018 at 12:40

The Ibn Ezra is using "Aram" to mean the nation of Rome, which he identifies with Greece (Yavan).

His reasoning is that "Kittim" is the son of Yavan (Genesis 10:4). Onkelos to Numbers 24:24 translates Kittim as Romans, and Daniel 11:30, which refers to Kittim, is regarded as a prophecy about the Romans.

He also identifies the Kittim with Rome on the authority of Yosef ben Guryon, presumably based on this story:

As the peoples spread out, it says, the Kittim camped in Campania and built a city called "Posomanga", while descendants of Tubal camped in neighboring Tuscany and built "Sabino", with the Tiber river as their frontier. However, they soon went to war following the rape of the Sabines by the Kittim, who are correlated to the Romans. This war was ended when the Kittim showed the descendants of Tubal their mutual progeny. They then built cities called Porto, Albano, and Aresah. Later, their territory is occupied by Agnias, King of Carthage, but the Kittim end up appointing Zepho, son of Eliphaz and grandson of Esau, as their king, with the title Janus Saturnus. The first king of Rome, Romulus, is made in this account to be a distant successor of this line.

When he says that Aram still exists alongside Ishmael, he's referring to the Byzantine Empire, which still existed in his time, because the third and fourth kingdoms are simultaneous (Daniel 2:42).

  • Why is Ibn Ezra calling Rome, which is Kittim, Aram?
    – robev
    Jul 4, 2018 at 12:37
  • @robev ארם sounds like רומי. It's only the name he uses for Rome; he's not identifying the Arameans with the Romans
    – b a
    Jul 4, 2018 at 12:41

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