Daniel, Chapter 8
In this chapter we will read of the success of the Medo-Persian Empire and a picture of the power of Greece will follow this brief sketch. We will be told that of the successors of Alexander, a little horn will arise and will cause harm to God’s people and yet he will be destroyed. In this chapter, as in most of the others, the purpose is to reveal to God’s people what will happen in the future, and to assure them that God’s enemies will not prevail.
8:1-2 The third year of the reign of Belshazzar would have been 550 B.C. This vision comes two years after the vision in chapter seven (7:1). In addition, the events of chapters seven and eight both happen prior to the events recorded in chapter five. No longer in Babylon, Daniel at this time is in the city of Susa, which was located 200 miles east of Babylon. It appears that Daniel was in Susa in the vision and not there in body. A century later the Persian king Xerxes built a magnificent place in Susa, which was where the events recorded in the Book of Esther took place (Esther 1:2). Nehemiah, the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, served in this city (Nehemiah 1:1). “And I myself was beside the Ulai (YOU lie) Canal”: This was a wide, artificial irrigation canal some 900 feet wide, the classical Greek writers called it Eulaeus, and it is known today as Karun. The province of Elam was located east of Babylon. It was bounded on the north by Media and Assyria, on the east and southeast by Persia, and on the south by the Persian Gulf.
8:3 The ram represents the Medo-Persian Empire that would conquer Babylon in 539 B.C. (8:20). “The higher horn speaks of the supremacy of the Persian element. The Medes and the Persians had been associated for a long time. The Medes were the much more prominent kingdom until Cyrus the Great came along at which time the Persian star arose” (McGuiggan p. 132). 8:4 The Persian kingdom, coming from the east, pushes west, north and then (using the fertile crescent) south. The Persian kingdom over-ran everything where it went, including Egypt and Asia Minor.
8:5-7 The he-goat is a fitting symbol for the empire of Greece (which came from the west as far as Palestine is concerned) (8:21)for it represents ruggedness and power. “Without touching the ground”: These words indicate the rapidity of the conquests. “A quick survey of Alexander’s career will make it clear that he was just that, fast moving!” (McGuiggan p. 132). “And the goat had a conspicuous horn”: This horn represents Alexander the Great. The “mighty wrath” points to the cry for vengeance from the Greek city states after years of assaults across the Aegean Sea by the Persian armies between 490-480 B.C.
8:8 It is also true that it was while Alexander was young and strong, that he was broken (died) at the age of 33. Following his death his kingdom was divided among his successors. Initially thirteen men fought to carve out for themselves a piece of the Greek empire. Four of them were left standing when the smoke cleared. Lysimachus obtained Thracia, Cassander ruled Macedonia, Seleucus gained Babylon, Syria and Asia Minor and Ptolemy held on to Egypt and Palestine. These four kingdoms correspond to the “four winds of heaven”, that is, to the four points of a compass. “Thus, the vast empire, founded by Alexander, was dispersed to the four winds” (Young p. 170).
8:9-12 This is not a description of some supposed future Anti-Christ yet to come, but rather, is a very accurate description of Antiochus Epiphanes (ca.175-165 B.C.). The Jewish historian Josephus noted, “And there would arise from their number a certain king who would make war on the Jewish nation and their laws, deprive them of the form of government based on these laws, spoil the temple, and prevent the sacrifices from being offered for three years. And these misfortunes our nation did in fact come to experience under Antiochus Epiphanes, just as Daniel many years before saw and wrote that they would happen”(Antiq. X:11:7). This is not the same little horn of chapter seven which grew out of the fourth empire (7:7-8). This little horn definitely grew out of the Grecian empire. Antiochus Epiphanes was one of the Seleucids, that is, rulers who ruled the kingdom established by Seleucus I Nicator in 312 B.C. “Which grew exceedingly great toward the south”: This is what he did. He robbed the temples in Persia, over-ran Egypt in 170 B.C. and fiercely persecuted the Jews, “toward the Beautiful Land”. 8:10 “Grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth”: I believe here the “stars” refer to the faithful among God’s people (see Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43). 8:11 “It even magnified itself to be equal to the Commander of the host”: Antiochus blasphemed God again and again. He actually considered himself equal to God and commanded that likenesses of himself to be placed in the temple of the Jews and worshiped as God. “And it removed the regular sacrifice from Him”: That Antiochus actually forbade the Jews to offer their regular sacrifices is confirmed by 1 Macc. 1:44-47. “And the place of His sanctuary was thrown down”: That is, he desecrated the temple, even commanding that a pig be slain on the temple altar. “The story of Antiochus’ desecration of the temple and his persecution of the people is told to us in detail in Josephus and the Books of Maccabees. On December 168-7 B.C. the temple was desecrated and an idol set up in the sanctuary. The altars were laden with all kinds of abominations. The grossest kinds of immorality were carried out in the holy places and the drunken god, Dionysius, was given pride of place” (McGuiggan p. 133). 8:12 “And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice”: Here is the reason why God will allow this to happen. God did not lack power, but rather His professed people had become evil. In verse 23 we specifically learn that Antiochus does not come to power until“transgressors have run their course”. Here is a warning: Wicked rulers are given to wicked people! “It will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper”: Every copy of the Old Testament that could be found was burned, and many faithful Jews were slain, yet at the same time many unfaithful Jews consorted with him and compromised. Objective truth was cast to the ground, does that sound familiar?
8:13 God here sends two angels into Daniel’s presence to discuss the matter of time, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply”: The idea seems to be, “How long will the daily sacrifices be prevented? How long will transgression reign, and how long will the temple and the faithful be trampled under foot?”
8:14 “For 2300 evenings and mornings”: The reign of Antiochus began in 171 B.C. and terminated at his death in 164 B.C.. The above number might be symbolic, yet it is very close to the length of time between 171 and 164 B.C., that is, six years and about 4 months. The end of the vision is said to be when the holy place is properly restored, that is, cleansed. This took place on December 25th, 165-4 B.C. The reason for the language “evenings and mornings” is probably because the defiling of the temple included the removal of the evening and morning sacrifices.
8:15-16 Daniel seeks to understand the vision, but he does not address an angel, rather he ponders the vision in his own mind and God knows what he is thinking. Suddenly there stood before him an angel in the likeness of a man. “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision”: Just as we would be, Daniel was terrified as the angel approached him.
8:17 “Understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end”: The expression, “time of the end” does not mean “the end of the world”, for the empire that produced the little horn of Daniel 8 would be in turn replaced by a fourth kingdom in Daniel 7. It would not be until the fourth kingdom arrived and had various kings that the kingdom of Heaven would be established (Daniel 2:44). Compare this expression with verse 19 “What will occur at the final period of the indignation, for it pertains to the appointed time of the end”: That is, this part of the vision applies to the final period of God’s wrath upon the rebellious nation of Israel. God had punished Israel through Babylon, and He would continue to chastise them with the Medes and the Persians, Antiochus being the last major persecutor before the Messiah arrived. In other words, when the abominations of Antiochus occur, it will be evidence to the Jewish people that the last period of wrath has appeared.
8:18-22 Here is the interpretation of the vision. We need to be impressed that Daniel is given information about events that will happen between 539 and 160 B.C. How many of us would like to know what will happen between 2050 and 2500 A.D.?
8:23 “In the latter period of their rule”: The four kings that succeeded Alexander while enjoying a measure of success in no way succeeded as did Alexander (8:22 “although not with his power”). The kingdom of the Seleucids lasted until 64 B.C. and that of the Ptolemies until 31 B.C. When Antiochus arose to power the kingdom of the Seleucids was already in decline. “When the transgressors have run their course”: That is, sinners and apostates among God’s own people. “A king will arise insolent and skilled in intrigue”: Antiochus was devious and crafty. In one raid he caused 40,000 to be slain by the hand of one whom he sent in peace. The term “insolent” means “hard, unyielding, adamant”, and “skilled in intrigue” means he was a master of dissimulation, able to conceal his meaning under ambiguous words and so disguising his real purpose. Note, neither are these compliments from God, but rather words of condemnation.
8:24 “But not by his own power”: “Indicates plainly that only because God providentially allowed it did he become so great”(Butler p. 314). “He will destroy to an extraordinary degree”: He will be allowed to destroy other armies, his political rivals, and many of God’s own people.
8:25 It would seem as if evil and deceit are about to take over the whole world when this king reigns. “He will be so crafty in destroying any one who opposes him that while opponents think they are perfectly safe, he is plotting their destruction” (Butler p. 315). This king will become so proud and so self-confident that he will even attack the things, which represent God. “But he will be broken without human agency”: That is, God will personally deal with him through His providential workings. If God can deal with such a devious and powerful individual, than God can also deal with modern mad men and terrorists. Note, because of the sins among God’s own people, God will allow them to be humbled and punished, and God will allow evil to triumph for a season.
8:26 The vision applied to many days in the future. Note, the vision was given in the year 550 B.C. and began to be fulfilled in 539 B.C. Antiochus will come to power in 171 B.C., and the vision was finished in 164 B.C. That is less than 400 years in the future, yet the Lord described it as many days to come. Now compare this with Revelation 22:10 where the command is “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near”. Obviously, the events described in the book of Revelation cannot be things still yet future, but applied to events which would happen shortly after the book was written. It does not make any sense for the many days of Daniel to be less than 400 years and the time is near of Revelation to be 2000 years.
8:27 Daniel is probably sick because he has heard of the evil times that were ahead for his people. Do we have such empathy for God’s people? Does unfaithfulness among God’s people make us sick? “But I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it”: Even though Daniel was given some interpretation, he still does not have all the facts (see 1 Peter 1:10-12). This stands as proof that Daniel did not invent or make-up the visions which he recorded.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017