Daniel 8


Chapter eight is an expansion of chapter two as was the case with chapter seven. However, in this chapter, the emphasis is on two of the four world empires. It is concerned with the second and third empires with emphasis on events to occur in Jerusalem toward the end of the third empire.

‘In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision, I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision, I was beside the Ulai Canal.’ Daniel 8:1-2

This vision occurs two years after the vision of chapter seven, during the third year of Belshazzar. The place of the vision is Shushan the capital city of the Persian kingdom during the days of its power. Daniel was there involved in some way in government business. He was by the river Ulai at the time the vision occurred.

‘I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.’ Daniel 8:3-4

He first saw a ram with two horns. One of the horns was higher than the other. Verse 20 makes it clear that this represents the Medo-Persian Empire. The ram denotes the united power of these two kingdoms yet the unequal horns show that one of the powers would be mightier than the other. Persia became the greater of the two and finally, Media was dropped so that the empire was known as the Persian Empire.

The ram pushes toward the west, north and south. This denotes the expansion of the empire. It made great conquests in the three directions mentioned whereas there was very little effort toward the east. One of the great advances of the kingdom was toward the west where it reaches Greece.

Toward the north, they reached around the Caspian Sea and on the south, they took in Ethiopia and Egypt. The Persian Empire extended over a great part of the then known world. It had little opposition to its advancement until the Greek Empire came into its own.

‘As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power.’ Daniel 8:5-7

While considering the ram, a he-goat, but later on called a rough goat, came from the west. Verse 21 tells us this was Greece under its first king Alexander the Great. History records that in 334 B.C. Alexander invaded Persia and completed that conquest by 330 B.C.

He finally reached the Ganges River in India in 328 B.C. Thus in a very short period of time Alexander the Great had overrun nearly the entire known world including the great Persian Empire.

The horn between the eyes of the goat represented Alexander. He was only 21 when he began his conquests. His fierceness and fury against Persia are represented in verses six and seven. The mighty Persian Empire was crushed beneath the power of Alexander as if trampled to the earth.

‘The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.’ Daniel 8:8

At the time of its greatest strength, an event occurred that broke the horn in which was concentrated so much power. At no time was the empire as strong as at the death of Alexander. He died at the age of 33, the year 323 B.C. After his death, his empire never regained its greatness and was never united.

In a series of events, the kingdom in twenty years became divided between “four notable ones” who were four of his generals.

Lysimachus one general took Thrace and Bithynia, and possibly all of Asia Minor. Cassander, another general, gained Macedonia and Greece. Ptolemy, a third general took Egypt and contiguous territories, and Seleucus a fourth general gained Syria, Babylon, and the Eastern countries as far as India. Thus, the kingdom instead of being one united nation stood divided into four sections each independent of the other.

‘Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land.’ Daniel 8:9

A little horn springs up from one of the notables. It seems to grow in strength and exerts its power toward the south, east and the pleasant land. There seems no doubt that this is the famous Antiochus Epiphanes who was a successor of Seleucus Nicator, one of Alexander’s generals who had ruled over Syria, Babylon and Media. The capital was in Antioch.

This man was to rule from 175 to 164 B.C. Thus, we are dealing with the period between the Old and New Testaments. No sooner did he come to the throne than he hastened to extend his kingdom. In 171 B.C., he declared war on Egypt. In 170 B.C., he conquered Egypt and overrun Jerusalem. He also expanded eastward taking many of the eastern countries.

The pleasant land denotes Palestine. On his return from fighting the Egyptians, he turned aside to invade Judea. Epiphanes called “Epimanes the Insane” ordered the adoption of the Greek religion. In December 168 B.C. he dedicated the Jewish Temple to the god Zeus, setting up his statue and sacrificing a pig in his honour.

It was these actions that precipitated the famous Maccabean revolt in Palestine where bands of devout Jews carried out a kind of strike and run war at night hiding out in the hills, Guerrilla warfare. The Maccabean family were leaders of this movement and became famous in Jewish history.

‘It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry hosts down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the LORD; it took away the daily sacrifice from the LORD, and his sanctuary was thrown down. Because of rebellion, the LORD’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the LORD’s people?” He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.’ Daniel 8:10-14

These verses describe his attacks on the Jews. He turned violently bitter against them making a determined effort to exterminate their religion. According to Josephus, this lasted from 167 till 164 B.C. His ability to do this was not any power of his own but it was due to the “transgressions” of the Jews.

“Holy ones” (probably angels) speak to one another about this tragedy and one of them asks how long it will continue. The answer is 2,300 days. This figure presents no small problem.

There have been various interpretations placed on it. In terms of years, it would be about six years and four months. This would seem to be the most logical way to look at it. Counting from the time he first overrun Jerusalem, 170 B.C. until they were able to restore the sacrifices, 164 B.C. it would be about six years.

‘While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.” As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.” While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet. He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power. “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.’ Daniel 8:15-25

Daniel is perplexed and desires to know the meaning of the vision. There stood before him one who had the appearance of a man. He is called Gabriel by a voice. The vision is said to belong “to the time of the end.” This was the time for the end of the Grecian kingdom.

As far as God was concerned when Antioch Epiphanes appeared the kingdom was on its way out. After his death, his empire sank lower and lower. Antiochus Epiphanes was raised up by God to punish Israel and is also thrown down by God.

Verse 23 shows Antiochus as the visitation of God upon His people who had prior to His coming been sinking deeper into transgressions. There was a definite period marked out in the Divine purpose, and when that period arrives the end of all this will take place. Just as suddenly as Antiochus had appeared so would he disappear.

“He shall be broken without human hand.” He was not overcome by any nation or carnal power but died while he was in Babylon. When Antiochus died, the opposition to the Jews ceased and their land again had peace and rest. The next power to take over Palestine would be Rome.

‘The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.’ Daniel 8:26-27

Daniel is told that the vision he has seen is true and will certainly be accomplished. He was to “seal it up,” that is to make a record of it that it might be preserved many days until the time of fulfilment. Many days will elapse before it will come to pass. When the events would happen, they could better bear it knowing the facts of how long and when their troubles would terminate.

Daniel’s fainting was not what we think of as fainting, but rather he was made weak and lifeless, even sick, as a result of what he had seen and heard. He had been given a glimpse into the future and he had seen a terrible thing. The apostasy of his people pained him deeply. Israel had been carried away into Babylonian captivity because of apostasy.

Surely, they had learned their lesson. Will they do it again?

We can understand that the vision left him deeply disturbed and physically ill.

Oh that we had more like Daniel who upon hearing of the troubles and departures of their brethren would grieve instead of rejoice.

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