Daniel Chapter 8
In the third year of Belshazzar’s reign, yet another vision came to Daniel. Thus this vision and the one in chapter 7 occurred before the events of chapter 5, when his reign came to an end when his kingdom was overthrown. Daniel was in Sushan, in the province of Elam, which was about 200 miles east-southeast of Babylon.
In Daniel’s vision, he saw a ram with two horns, and one horn was higher than the other. The ram was pushing to the north, south, and west, and there was none that could stand before him.
Who are these two horns? They are identified in Daniel 8:20 as the kings of Media and Persia. These two kingdoms had been linked for some time, with Media being more prominent. Then in 550 B.C. Persia, under the leadership of Cyrus, gained control.
So what is represented by the ram pushing in the three directions mentioned?
- West – Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Asia Minor
- North – Colchis, Armenia, Iberia, and the areas around the Caspian Sea
- South – Palestine, Ethiopia, Egypt, Lybia
In this, we see control over a large portion of the known world.
The vision continued with a goat with a great horn coming from the west—the areas basically bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This goat was none other than Alexander the Great, the king of Greece, as identified in Daniel 8:21. The idea that this goat was running and not touching the ground obviously refers to the swiftness of Alexander’s conquests. He conquered the known world in 12 years. This Grecian Empire had a significant role in preparing the world for the coming Kingdom of God. Greek became the universal language, much as English is today. Thus in the 1st Century, as the gospel began to spread from Jerusalem, language was not a barrier.
This goat was “enraged.” Older translations use “anger” or “choler’ (KJV), referring to “bitterness.” But then in Daniel 8:8, the great horn was broken. Alexander died when he was only 33 years old. Upon his death, his kingdom was broken into four sub-kingdoms. There was much confusion for a time, but eventually, four of his generals became prominent in different areas.
We remember back in Daniel 7:6, the beast mentioned there had four wings and four heads. These four were Ptolemy over Egypt, Seleucus I over Syria, Cassander over Macedonia, and Lysimachus over Thrace and Asia Minor. Although we now have four regions, history tells us that the Ptolemys and Seleucids were the more prominent rulers.
Here is the chief point of the vision, the rise of the little horn. This is generally considered to be Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled over Syria 175-163. He was one of the Seleucids. With him came much corruption and ungodly behavior. Consider a timeline of events following the removal of Onias from the position of the high priest. He was a godly man and was followed by corruption.
- 175 A.D. – Jason paid a bribe to become the high priest and put many heathen customs into practice, according to II Maccabees 4:13-14:
“Now such was the height of Greek fashions, and increase of heathenish manners, through the exceeding profaneness of Jason, that ungodly wretch, and no high priest, that the priests had no courage to serve anymore at the altar, but despising the temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, hastened to be partakers of the unlawful allowance in the place of exercise…”
- 172 B.C. – A larger bribe is given to Antiochus by Menelaus, thus he becomes the high priest. He then steals vessels from the temple and sells them. When Onias objects, Menelaus has him murdered. Menelaus is convicted of robbing the temple but obtained a pardon with a bribe.
- 171 B.C. – "(Epiphanes, e-pif'-a-naz, "Illustrious"): Son of Antiochus III who became king after his brother, Seleucus IV, had been murdered by Heliodorus…While Antiochus was on a second campaign in Egypt, he heard of the siege of Jerusalem. He returned immediately, slew many thousands of the inhabitants, and robbed the temple of its treasures (1 Macc 1:20-24; 2 Macc 5:11-21). By his prohibition of the Jewish worship and his introduction or substitution of the worship of the Olympian Zeus (1 Macc 1:54; 2 Macc 6:2; Ant, XII, v, 4) he brought about the insurrection of the Jews, under the Maccabees, upon whom he made an unsuccessful war in 167-164 BC. After this war Antiochus retired to the eastern provinces and died, after having failed in an attack on the temple of the Sun in Elymais, in Persia." [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia].
- 165 B.C. -- The temple is cleansed after it has been desecrated and is rededicated.
The “Beautiful Land” in Daniel 8:9 would be a reference to the Holy Land, the area of Judah and Jerusalem. Antiochus was filled with arrogance and pride. Then in the following verse, we are told that Antiochus caused the host of heaven and some of the stars to fall down before him. In other words, other rulers would bow down before him. This symbolical language is similar to the words used to describe the dream Joseph had which foretold his eventual promotion to second in command virtually prime minister of Egypt.
“And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed yet a dream: and, behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars made obeisance to me” (Genesis 37:9).
Then in Daniel 8:11 his arrogance was such that he imagined himself to be God. This is in keeping with the designation “Epiphanes,” or “Illustrious,” the title by which he is known.
“It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down.”
This is the same attitude that Nebuchadnezzar had when he was king of Babylon.
“But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the star of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
We are told that Antiochus sacrificed a pig on the altar of burnt offering, and sprinkled its blood around the temple. Pigs were unclean to the Jews, so this was a great desecration of the temple. He then set up an image of his idol. It is also probable that he encouraged Greek soldiers to commit fornication in the temple. This was a practice in Corinth and other cities in the 1st Century, where men paid to commit fornication with the temple prostitutes as part of their worship.
Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews, stated that Antiochus prohibited Jews from having a copy of the Scriptures, forbade them to circumcise their sons, and did not allow them to observe the Sabbath. Those who violated these edicts were put to death. (Book XII, Chapter V, 2-4). This was certainly a difficult time for the Jews.
This wickedness was allowed by God because of the transgression of His people. They had been warned, but in time ignored the warnings given about turning away from God. I Maccabees 1:11-15 gives some insight as to what was going on.
“In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are around us; for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow. So this device pleased them well. Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them license to do after the ordinances of the heathen; whereupon they built a place of exercise at Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen; and make themselves uncircumcised, and forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold to do mischief.”
Then in Daniel 8:13 Daniel heard one saint asking another saint how long this desolation would last, and he was told “2,300 evenings and mornings.” This has caused many to scratch their heads as to the meaning of these days.
One possible interpretation is given in the Archaeological Bible, p. 1401:
“This could refer to 2,300 full days. But as morning and evening sacrifices were offered daily at the temple (9:21; Ex. 29:38-39), ‘2,300 evenings and mornings’ quite possibly refers to the number of sacrifices consecutively offered on 1,150 days — the interval between the desecration of the altar by Antiochus and its reconsecration by Judas Maccabeus in December of 165 B.C.”
The Vision’s Interpretation
Daniel is greatly troubled by this vision, and in his vision saw what looked like a man and he heard the voice of a man standing in the river Ulai. That voice called to Gabriel and told him to give Daniel the understanding of the vision.
Gabriel is one of two named angels, the other being Michael. He was also sent to Zacharias, to announce the coming birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:11,19), and then six months later was sent to Nazareth, to Mary to tell her of the coming birth of Christ (Luke 1:26-38).
Gabriel tells Daniel “that the vision pertains to the time of the end.” The end of what? There are various ideas about this, but David Duncan presents a reasonable explanation.
"Other passages in Daniel that speak of the time of Antiochus Epiphanes includes: Daniel 11:27 ‘…end will still be at the appointed time.’ Daniel 8:19 ‘…what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation, for at the appointed time the end shall be.’
"These both speak of an “end” that will occur in ‘the latter’ time of the indignation. The time of the end then, is the time of the end of the indignation. The question then is God’s indignation against whom? Certainly this was a time when some Israelites have turned away from God however, the fair implication of Daniel 11:27 is that the indignation is against the Kings of the North and South who sought evil, but could not forstall the time of the end of God’s indignation: Daniel 11:27: ‘"Both these kings' hearts shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time.’” (Workbook on Daniel, David A. Duncan, p. 85)
It seems Daniel fainted at this vision but was touched and awakened so that he could receive the revelation of the dream he had.
The Ram’s Identity
The ram with the two horns represented Media and Persia.
The Goat’s Identity
The goat represented Greece with the large horn representing Alexander, with the broken horn and the four horns representing the four kingdoms that came from Alexanders, but not with the same power he had.
These verses are an apt description of Antiochus Epiphanes and his ascension to power by various schemes and deceit. As mentioned earlier, he called himself “Epiphanes” (God manifest), which is a fitting representation of his absolute arrogance. He died in 164 B.C. in Tabae in Persia. Daniel 8:24 indicates that God allowed his power in carrying out the punishment of his rebellious people. As he rose to power through God’s influence so his death was by God’s influence. He died either from an accident or an illness.
Daniel was told not to share this vision with others, as it related to events far in the future, which would be some 350 years. This was all too much for Daniel, and he was “exhausted and sick for days.” Another translation says he “fainted” (KJV).
The symbolism may at times be over our heads, but studying it serves at least two purposes.
- We can have an understanding of the observance of Hanukkah by the Jews today, as this December event commemorates the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabees after it had been defiled by Antiochus, and
- we have further evidence of prophecy and fulfillment, which is absolutely concrete evidence of the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures.