Daniel 8 - Outline of Daniel (MENU page)
II. Daniel's Visions concerning the Times of the Gentiles (ch. 7-12)
B. The Ram and the He Goat (8:1-27)
 
1. In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me,
[even unto] me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.
2 And I saw in a vision;
and it came to pass, when I saw,
that I [was] at Shushan [in] the palace, which [is] in the province of Elam;
and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.
in the third year of... king Belshazzar...- ie., about 10 years prior to the fall of Babylon.
...when I saw... I was at Shushan... the palace {ie., fortress, citadel}...-
At the time of his vision, Daniel may have been physically inside the palace at Shushan, having traveled there from Babylon on official business to the eastern most province of the Babylonian empire. The province of Elam was a region east of Babylon and north of the lower Tigris river. The ruins of Shushan (Susa) are located in present day Iran, about 150 miles east of the border with Iraq. In Daniel's day, Shushan was on the bank of the river. Over time the course of the river has moved away from the citadel. The Ulai river has also been renamed, and is now known as the Kerkhah river.
...I saw in vision... I was by the river of Ulai.- In his vision, Daniel was transported outside the fortress,
somewhere beside the river. About 20 miles upstream (north) of Shushan, the river divided into two channels. It may be that the setting of Daniel's vision was between these two channels (cp. v.16).
     Like Daniel's previous visions (in ch. 7), this vision is followed closely by a heavenly explanation of its meaning (in vs.15-27). Elements of that explanation will be applied as we discuss the vision itself. This vision is closely related to the visions of ch. 7. In those visions, we saw the rise and fall of four great empires, with special emphasis on the "little horn," the antichrist, who is the last king of the final form of gentile world dominion. Here, our attention is directed to the second and third empires, with special focus on another "little horn," a king who would arise from the third empire, whose characteristics would foreshadow those of the antichrist.
     Daniel's foreview of these kingdoms is so vivid and clear that sceptics see this chapter as evidence that the book was written after the events occurred in history. However, Daniel's testimony is consistent with the experience of other prophets, who faithfully reported what they saw, though they themselves struggled to understand God's message which would not be understood until after it was fulfilled (cp. v.26,27; 1Pet 1:10-12).
     Much of the preceding portion of the book (2:4 - 7:28) was written in the Aramaic language, because God was revealing to the gentile nations the cause, course and culmination of gentile world dominion. Power was given to them by God, who determined before hand the rise and fall of successive empires, and who would displace them all with Christ's everlasting kingdom. From chapter 8 onward, the book is written in Hebrew, as God forewarns the Jewish people of the terrible sufferings that they will endure under gentile dominion (and especially under the final ruler, the antichrist, "the prince that shall come"), and as He foretells their great deliverance through "Messiah the Prince" (vs.24,25; Dan 9:25,26).
3 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw,
and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had [two] horns:
and the [two] horns [were] high;
but one [was] higher than the other, and the higher came up last.
4 I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward;
so that no beasts might stand before him, neither [was there any] that could deliver out of his hand;
but he did according to his will, and became great.
there stood beside the river a ram...- The ram represents the Medo-Persian empire (v.20).
At the time of the vision, Babylon controlled this region. The presence of the ram indicates the end of Babylon's dominion. The book of Esther records events that took place at "Shushan the palace," about 50 years later, at the height of Medo-Persian power (Esth 1:1-4).
two horns... one was higher than the other...- The Medes rose to power first, overcoming Babylon,
but the Persians brought greater strength (as indicated in the previous vision, Dan 7:5), enabling further conquests...
...westward, and northward, and southward...- The Persians came out of the east,
expanding their territory in the three directions mentioned, to include the Babylonian empire and also the regions of Egypt and Lydia (the western portion of modern Turkey).
5 And as I was considering,
behold, an he goat came from the west
on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground:
and the goat [had] a notable horn between his eyes.
6 And he came to the ram that had [two] horns, which I had seen standing before the river,
and ran unto him in the fury of his power.
7 And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him,
and smote the ram, and brake his two horns:
and there was no power in the ram to stand before him,
but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him:
and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.
an he goat came from the west...- This is the Greek or Graeco-Macedonian empire (v.21),
led by Alexander the great (who is depicted by the single "notable horn" on the he goat).
...on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground...-
Under Alexander, the Greek empire advanced rapidly to world dominion, moving its troops with great speed (as depicted by the four wings on the third empire, in Dan 7:6). Alexander vented his rage against Medo-Persia in a series of bloody battles.
8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great:
and when he was strong, the great horn was broken;
and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.
9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn,
which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant [land].
Therefore the he goat waxed very great...-
By the end of Alexander's brief reign (of only 13 years, 336 - 323 BC), he had conquered the then known world. Though he had become very great, he grieved that there were no more lands to conquer.
...when he was strong, the great horn was broken...
Alexander died at the peak of his strength, at age 33 (356 - 323 BC), in Babylon, as a result of a fever which followed a night of alcoholic excess.
...and for it {ie., in its stead} came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven...- see v.22
After Alexander's death, his empire was divided between four generals. This was depicted in the previous vision, by the four heads of the leopard (Dan 7:6):
  • Cassander in the region of Macedonia (Thrace);
  • Lysimachus in Asia Minor;
  • Seleucis in Syria;
  • Ptolemy in Egypt.
...out of one of them came forth a little horn...- see v.23-25
  • This little horn is not the same as the little horn of the previous vision (Dan 7:7,8).
    • Observe that the little horn of ch. 8 arises out of one of the four horns which arose out of the third beast (Greek empire),
    • whereas the little horn of ch. 7 arises after the ten horns on the fourth beast (the Roman empire).
    • Although not identical, the two kings represented by these two little horns are strikingly similar in their characteristics and behaviors.
    • Thus, the little horn that comes forth from the Greek empire foreshadows the antichrist who will arise from the final form of gentile world dominion.
  • This little horn, which arises out of the Greek empire, is Antiochus Epiphanes, who came through the Seleucid line, out of Syria, to reign from 175 - 164 BC.
which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.-
Antiochus led military campaigns against the Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt. In the course of those incursions, he overran the land of Israel and Jerusalem ('the pleasant land').
10 And it waxed great, [even] to the host of heaven;
and it cast down [some] of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
11 Yea, he magnified [himself] even to the prince of the host,
and by him the daily [sacrifice] was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.
12 And an host was given [him] against the daily [sacrifice] by reason of transgression,
and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.
it waxed great, even to the host of heaven...
These verses are to be understood as a description of Antiochus' warfare against the God of Israel. Antiochus called himself "Theos Epiphanes" meaning "Manifest God." However, the language used here extends beyond the self-deification of Antiochus, to encompass the future blasphemy of the antichrist (Dan 7:25; Rev 13:5), and also the pre-historic rebellion of Satan, who is the spiritual power behind gentile world dominion (cp. Rev 12:3,4).
it cast down some of the host and of the stars...-
Antiochus defiled the Temple in Jerusalem, by installing an image of Zeus, by sacrificing unclean animals on the altar, and with other desecrations. He cast down the people of God (God's 'host') and their faithful leaders (the 'stars,' cp. Dan 12:3), replacing them with priests who would serve the Greek gods. During his control of Jerusalem, it was a capital offense to possess a copy of the Hebrew Bible, or to follow the dictates of biblical Law, in matters such as the circumcision of infants, or the offering of proper sacrifices.
an host was given him... it cast down the truth... practised and prospered.-
However, Antiochus had a following among some of the Jewish people ('an host was given him') who went along with his transgressions, disregarding the truth of God's Word, for the sake of expediency. Those who submitted to his outrageous demands did his work ('practised') and were successful ('prospered') under his rule. But many were slaughtered mercilessly, when Antiochus suspected the Jews were revolting against him. The following account is from the apocryphal book of Maccabees:
"When these happenings were reported to the king, he thought that Judea was in revolt. Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery."
2 Maccabees 5:11-14
13 Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain [saint] which spake,
How long [shall be] the vision [concerning] the daily [sacrifice], and the transgression of desolation,
to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?
14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days;
then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
one saint {holy one} speaking...- These are heavenly beings,
speaking to one another in Daniel's hearing, for his understanding (cp. Dan 4:13,17).
...the daily {lit., perpetual} sacrifice...- cp. Ex 29:38-42
This sacrifice, which was a continual foreview of the Lamb of God (cp. Joh 1:29), was forbidden and discontinued by Antiochus (v.11).
...the transgression of desolation...-
In the book of Daniel, the term 'desolate' or 'desolation' is applied in several ways:
  • to the defilement of the Temple {'the Sanctuary'} and the abuse of God's people {'the host'}, by Antiochus (v.13).
  • to the appalling condition of the Temple and of Jerusalem, which lay in ruins, in Daniel's day (9:17,18).
  • to the destruction of the second Temple, after the cutting off of the Messiah (9:26).
  • to the abomination {ie., detestable thing} that would occupy the third Temple, during the time of Jacob's Trouble, the great Tribulation (9:27; 11:31; 12:11). This is the event to which Jesus referred in Mat 24:15.
Antiochus' "transgression of desolation," as terrifying as it was, merely foreshadows the antichrist's "abomination of desolation."
how long...?- The answer is 2,300 days. However, the intended starting point is uncertain.
This period (about six and one third years) approximates the time that Antiochus controlled Jerusalem. The occupation was ended by the success of a revolt led by Mattathias and Judah Maccabee. As soon as the Greek intruders were expelled from the city, the Temple was cleansed and rededicated (as commemorated by the feast of Dedication, mentioned in John 10:22, also known as Hanukkah, or the feast of Lights).
15. And it came to pass, when I, [even] I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning,
then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.
16 And I heard a man's voice between [the banks of] Ulai, which called,
and said, Gabriel, make this [man] to understand the vision.
17 So he came near where I stood:
and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face:
but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man:
for at the time of the end [shall be] the vision.
18 Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground:
but he touched me, and set me upright.
Gabriel...- This is the first mention of Gabriel, whose name means "Warrior of God."
In the few passages where Gabriel appears, he is bearing a message of great importance, concerning God's work of salvation for His people. cp. Dan 9:21; Luk 1:19,26
Gabriel stood in "the appearance of a man" before Daniel. The voice which gave instruction to Gabriel, was the voice of Gabriel's Commander (cp. Heb 1:13,14; Rev 22:16).
'Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.'- cp. Rev 1:1
Apart from the Lord's enabling, we cannot understand prophecy aright. 1Cor 2:14
...I was afraid and fell upon my face... but he touched me, and set me upright.- cp. Rev 19:10; 22:8,9
19 And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation:
for at the time appointed the end [shall be].
20 The ram which thou sawest having [two] horns [are] the kings of Media and Persia.
21 And the rough goat [is] the king of Grecia:
and the great horn that [is] between his eyes [is] the first king.
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.
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.
24 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power:
and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise,
and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
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.
I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation...-
The indignation is the wrath of God for man's rebellion against Him. God's indignation was first expressed against Israel (Lam 2:6; Eze 21:31), which is the cause of their captivities, dispersion, and tribulation under the gentile powers. God's indignation will also be poured out upon the gentile nations (Isa 10:24,25; 26:20,21; Jer 10:10; Zeph 3:8).
...for at the time appointed the end shall be.- The indignation will be brought to a conclusion,
as described in this vision, which will be fulfilled "at the time of the end" (v.17).
'The time of the end' refers to the close of the Times of the Gentiles, and the end of the Great Tribulation. (cp. Dan 12:4,9; Mat 24:14). However, this passage contains two overlapping pictures. The primary picture relates to 'the time of the end,' while the secondary picture occurs:
in the latter time of their kingdom...- (v.23)
That is, toward the end of the period ruled by the four kingdoms that arose out of Alexander's empire. The four kings, that stood up in Alexander's stead, had been relatively weak compared to him (v.22). But, out of one of those kingdoms...
a king of fierce {ie., strong, mighty} countenance {ie., face, person, presence}... shall stand up.-
This refers to Antiochus Epiphanes who raged against the God of Israel and fomented atrocities upon His Temple and people (as previously described). Antiochus, an arrogant megalomaniac, called himself' 'Epiphanes' (ie., 'Manifest God'), while contemporaries privately referred to him as 'Epimanes' (meaning 'the Mad One'). Yet, as fierce as he was, Antiochus fell short of fulfilling several aspects of vs.23-25. These will await fulfillment in the antichrist, whose rising is foreshadowed here by Antiochus.
...understanding dark sentences {HB=chiydah, obscure utterances, parables, perplexing questions}...-
The word translated "dark sentences" is used elsewhere of riddles (eg., Judg 14:12-19), and of difficult to comprehend natural and spiritual concepts (eg., 1Kin 10:1; Num 12:8; Psa 78:2; Prov 1:6).
As used here, the word describes the analytical intelligence and spiritual insight of this ruler. Antiochus was steeped in occult wisdom (cp. Rev 2:24). His personality and actions could be explained as the effects of demon possession.
...his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power...-
Beyond his human abilities, the antichrist will be empowered supernaturally by Satan (Rev 13:4).
...he shall destroy wonderfully {extraodinarily}, and shall prosper, and practise...-
Antiochus was very successful in his work of destruction in Jerusalem (vs.10-12). But the antichrist will excel, with extraordinary destruction of the entire world (Isa 14:16,17).
...and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people...- Israel is the mighty and holy people.
Israel is holy, because they have been set apart by God, for His purpose of revealing Himself to mankind. Israel is a mighty people, as illustrated by the routing of Antiochus' forces by the Maccabees, or in modern times, by the victories of Israel's greatly out numbered forces when they were surrounded and attacked by Arab neighbors (eg., in 1948 and 1967). However, the antichrist will successfully overwhelm them (Rev 13:7).
...through his policy {prudence, cunning}... he shall cause craft {HB=mirnah, deceit, treachery} to prosper in his hands...-
see 2The 2:9,10
...he shall magnify himself in his heart...-
Although Antiochus called himself 'Manifest God,' he never installed himself in the Temple as God, as the antichrist will do. Dan 11:36; 2The 2:4
...by peace shall destroy many...-
Those Jewish people who aligned themselves with Antiochus, in hope of personal security, were severely disappointed. The antichrist will promise peace to Israel and to the entire world. He will come as the rider on the white horse, promising peace, but he will be followed quickly by war, famine, and pestilence (Rev 6:1-8). cp. Dan 9:27; 11:21-23; 1The 5:3).
...he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes...-
Antiochus "magnified himself... to the prince of the host" (v.11), as he warred against the God of Israel. However, he could not take his stand against "the Prince of princes," since "Messiah the prince," the Lord Jesus Christ, had not yet been revealed (Dan 9:25, Rev 17:14; 19:16). It will be against Him, that the antichrist will array his forces (Rev 19:19).
...but he shall be broken without hand.-
Some interpreters see this as a reference to Antiochus, who did not die in battle, but succumbed to disease. However, the greater application must be to the antichrist, who will be brought down by the Word of God (2The 2:8; Rev 19:19-21).
26 And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told [is] true:
wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it [shall be] for many days.
27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick [certain] days;
afterward I rose up, and did the king's business;
and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood [it].
...for it shall be for many days. And I Daniel fainted and was sick certain days...-
The stress, of receiving a supernatural vision, and of experiencing the literal presence of an angel, would seem sufficient to explain Daniel's need for recuperation. However, his sickness was much more profound.
and I was astonished {ie., appalled, made desolate} at the vision...-
Daniel was appalled to learn, that contrary to his hope and expectation:
  • the kingdom would not be fully restored to Israel at the end of the 70 years captivity, but must await the distant future ("...many days").
  • the suffering of his people would not abate but continue to intensify, until "the time of the end," when the enemy's power would finally be broken.

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