DANIEL - Chapter 8 Commentary

At this point in the book of Daniel, he starts writing in Hebrew. He had been writing in Aramaic.

In the third year of Belshazzar was king, another vision was seen by Daniel. The link "Historical Chart of Daniel 7 & 8" will put chapters 7 and 8 together and in perspective. Also, this chapter has a lot about Antiochus Epiphanes. See the flow diagram in the link "Egypt/Syria Leadership Breakdown" to get more history about Antiochus.

Daniel was by the Ulai river west of Sushan (Susa). This becomes important by name because later this becomes the summer palace for the Persian leaders. Susa is on the Babylonian empire map in the Daniel Table of Contents.

Daniel sees a ram that rams or pushes north, south, and west. No one could stand up to this ram. Than a male goat with a horn like a unicorn came from the land of the west. The goat and the ram fight and the goat prevails. The goat gets larger with power until the horn breaks and four other smaller horns take the large horn's place. Out of the symbology of one of the horns, a terrible tyrant takes over and tramples and kills Jews and other believers. He also commits the infamous "Abomination of Desolation".

Daniel hears 2 angels speaking about the desecration and how long the repression would last. After 2300 days the sanctuary will be cleaned. Daniel is depressed not having full understanding and noting the terrible parts of the visions. Gabriel gives him the meanings of his visions.

Daniel was asked to write all of this down and put it away for later consumption and understanding.

The second vision of Daniel occurred in the third year of Belshazzars's reign. That should be about 550 B.C. In the vision, Daniel was in the palace of Shushan (Susa) by the river Ulai (west of Susa). This was to be in some later years the winter capital of the Persian kings. Susa was the capital of the province or satrapy of Elam. Susa was a city in existence from about 3500 B.C. to the 1200's A.D. After being destroyed in 640 B.C., the city regained its importance as one of the capitals of the Persian Empire during the reign of Darius the Great, who built his palace there. This palace became the winter residence of later Persian kings.

Ezra 4:9; Neh. 1:1; Esther 1:2-5; 9:6-18
This starts the timing to stop talking about Babylon. The Persian empire has now taken over headed by Cyrus. This vision develops further the transition between the rising Persian Empire and the Grecian Empire of Alexander. The ram represents the ever increasing and more powerful Persian Empire. The two horns are the Median and Persian areas. The horns were high meaning a high degree of power. The longer horn is Persia indicating the stronger of the two. The irresistible thrust of the ram, Persia, was to the north (Colchis, Armenia, Iberia, around Caspian Sea), south (Palestine, Ethiopia, Egypt, Lybia), and west (Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Asia Minor). Persia was the most East power at that time (Isa. 41:2; 46:11).

The Media-Persian empire did not extent east. Therefore, the ram did not extent itself east. The symbolism here is That Persia, with its tremendous power, kept spreading itself with brute power of conquest. No empire could stand up to Persia at that time. Remember the bear in chapter 7? It had the three bones in the mouth. Those three bones are remarkably accurate in defining the three directions (north, west, south). See commentary and chapter 7:5 again.

Daniel was diligently thinking about the vision of the ram when he now sees a boisterous male goat from the west. The goat fairly flew (i.e. very nimbly and quickly), not touching the ground as he swiftly advances. One notable horn protruded as his defense. Daniel did not have a clear idea what the visions were representing. He is a prophet; the visions were the future. Therefore, he was not sure of the meanings of anything. There is more to the goat than just looking at the character of a goat to define the Greece empire under Alexander the Great.

  1. Caranus, the first king of the Macedonians (northern Greece), started his reign 814 years before the Christian era.He was led by goats to the city of Edessa where he established the seat of his kingdom. The adoption of the goat as an emblem of Macedon would have been early suggested by an important event in their history.
  2. Bronze figures of a goat have been found as the symbol of Macedon. Ancient bronze figures of a goat with one horn, have been found which was the old symbol of Macedon.
  3. In the reign of Amyntas the First, about 547 years before Christ, the Macedonians, upon being threatened with an invasion, became tributary to the Persians. In one of the pilasters of Persepolis, this very event seems to be recorded in a manner that throws considerable light on this subject. A goat is represented with an immense horn growing out of the middle of his forehead, and a man in a Persian dress is seen by his side, holding the horn with his left hand, by which is signified the subjection of Macedon. The subjoined is the figure referred to, and it strikingly shows how early this symbol was used.
  4. In the reign of Archelaus of Macedon, 413 B.C., on the back of a coin there was the head of a goat having only one horn.
The movement of Alexander the Great's conquests was so swift and complete, he covered most of the then known world in about 13 years. There is a tradition that says Alexander wept because there was no other empire to take over. Barnes in his Notes on the Old Testament gives a good quick summary of Alexander the Great.

"Nothing would better express the rapid conquests of Alexander the Great than the language employed by Daniel. He died at the early age of thirty-three, and having been chosen generalissimo of the Greeks against the Persians at the age of twenty-one, the whole period occupied by him in his conquests, and in his public life, was but twelve years; yet in that time he brought the world in subjection to his arms. A single glance at his rapid movements will show the propriety of the description here. In the year 334 B.C., he invaded Persia, and defeated the Persians in the battle of the Granicus; in the year 333, he again defeated them at the battle of Issus, and conquered Parthia, Bactria, Hyrcania, Sogdiana, and Asia Minor. In the year 332, he conquered Tyre and Egypt, and built Alexandria. In the year 331, he defeated Darius Codomanus, and in 330 completed the conquest of the Persian empire. In the year 328, he defeated Porus, king of India, and pursued his march to the Ganges. In these few years, therefore, he had overrun nearly all the then known world, in conquests more rapid and more decisive than had ever before been made."
The conflicts between the Greeks and the Persians were very severe. Alexander first vanquished the generals of Darius, at the river Granicus, in Phrygia; he next attacked and totally routed Darius, at the straits of Issus, in Cilicia; and afterwards at the plains of Arbela, in Assyria. The previously ferocious ram was no match for the goat, who crushed into the ram with full fury. The end of the ram was quick and complete. Phrygia is a area in the approximate center of Turkey. Cilicia was the area that Tarsus was in (Paul's birth place). It was the land northeast of the Mediteranean Sea. Assyria is the region north of Babylon.

The goat comes close to the ram. Obviously, he is looking for trouble. The goat was enraged ("moved with choler" - KJV). The word choler comes from the old idea that it was a humor secreted by the liver which caused irritability and anger. It would not be incorrect to assume the rage and anger Alexander had for the Persian empire. The Persian empire had continuously fought the Greeks for many years. They never really took over any of the territories; however, the physical and economic damage these wars had on Greece were not forgotten by Alexander. Darius had actually, behind the scenes, tried to bribe some Alexander leaders to leave Alexander. Also, he tried to find persons to kill Alexander. All these points made Alexander very enraged. The goat butted the ram until the ram was defeated. To show his power, the goat then broke the two horns on the ram's head. The breaking of the horns is symbolic is the ram losing its power (horn means power) to the goat. The ram couldn't even stand. The goat then trounced him with the feet. No one had the power to turn back the goat.

The accuracy of this prediction could not be more remarkable and could never be imagined. This was a detailed analysis of the Grecian Empire. At the zenith of the strength of the male goat, the great horn was suddenly broken. His brother, Philip Aridaeus, and his two sons, Alexander Aegus and Hercules, tried to keep up the Alexandrian empire for a time; but they were all murdered within fifteen years. So the great horn, the Macedonian kingdom of Alexander, was broken. Now, four notable horns spring up pointing to all directions. The breaking of the notable horn was a reference to the untimely death of Alexander (32 years old) in 323 B.C., at the apex of his strength. His kingdom was then divided among his four generals Ptolemy, Cassander, Lysimachus, and Seleucus I, These were the four horns that arose in place of Alexander (see the notes for Dan 7:6 for the areas of leadership). Cassander had the western parts; Lysimachus had the northern regions; Ptolemy possessed the southern countries; Seleucus had the eastern provinces. ("the four winds of heaven")

Now there was a rising of a little horn that grew out of the four horns. It grew great, especially in the east and the south. This little horn especially affected the "Glorious Land", a synonym for Israel. This little horn was Antiochus IV (Antiochus Epiphanes), the eighth in a long line of Seleucids (descended from the provinces lead by Seleucus; one of Alexander's generals) who governed Syria from the capital at Antioch.

Antiochus is the name of thirteen rulers of Syria and Palestine headquartered in Antioch. They were part of the Seleucid dynasty that inherited part of Alexander the Great's kingdom. No Antiochus is specifically mentioned in Scripture. Many Bible students think the Book of Daniel originally had its attention focused on the Seleucid kings, particularly Antiochus IV (175 - 164 B.C.) who was also known as Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the most cruel and corrupt kings in history. The Maccabean revolt and Jewish intertestamental history occurred during the reigns of the Antiochus kings. Intertestamental History and the Maccabees also documented in the Apocrypha give more information on this dynasty.

The "little horn", should not be confused with the "little horn" of 7:8, who is the Antichrist of the end time. However, Antiochus Epiphanes was a type of the Antichrist. In bitter reprisal against the Jews, Antiochus attacked Jerusalem, killing 50,000 men, women, and children. He sold an additional 40,000 people into slavery. The temple was dedicated to Jupiter Olympus; and on the great bronze alter a sow was offered, the juices of which were liberally spread throughout the temple precincts. He used harlots in the temple to celebrate Saturnalia (the ancient Roman seven-day festival of Saturn, which began on December 17; marked by an orgy and unrestrained revelry and often licentiousness) and forbade the observance of the Sabbath, the reading of Scripture, and circumcision. Small wonder that Antiochus was also called Epimanes which means "Antiochus the madman".

Who are the stars and the hosts of heaven? Most scholars feel they are the Levites and priests and the Jews. The hosts of heaven usually have a soldier or army significance in the Bible. The Jews could be the hosts as designated by God. In 2 Macc. 9:10, Antiochus is described in this language: “And the man that thought a little afore he could reach the stars of heaven, etc.” He is reaching (oppressing) the holy army of God Jehovah. Antiochus, in the fulfillment of this, trampled on the princes, and rulers, and people, of the holy host or army of God. All that is implied in this was abundantly fulfilled in what he did to the Jewish people. Nothing could better express the conduct of Antiochus toward the Jews.

Compare Apocrypha readings 1 Macc. 1 and 2 Macc. 8:2

Some write the prince or commander of the hosts was God and some feel it might have been the chief priest Onias. The most likely correct personage is God. He truly is the Commander or Highest Priest of the Jewish people. Antiochus "magnifying himself" or exalted himself. This would put him in competition with God. After he conquered the area, he eventually disallowed sacrifices. This, of course, was not acceptable to the Jews who had to have the ability to have blood sacrifices. He destroyed the temple and the city. Lengerke says of Antiochus: “[He] entered the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick, and all the vessels thereof; and the table of showbread, the pouring vessels, etc., and stripped the temple of all the ornaments of gold.” After two years he again visited the city, and “smote it very sore, and destroyed much people of Israel, and when he had taken the spoils of the city he set it on fire, and pulled down the walls thereof on every side.” Everything in Jerusalem was made desolate. Her sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness, her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into reproach, her honor into contempt.” Antiochus stopped all worshiping at the temple. The Jews had to stop circumcisions.

It appears, because of his aggression, he "earned" the earthly right to be king of the trampled Jewish people. Strength and power were given to him. The "truth" was the act of worshipping God. For additional oppression information, see 1 Macc. 1:20-24, 29-32, 44-50

The "Holy one" refers to an angel. Daniel overheard one angel express concern about how long the oppression and treading underfoot the host of Israel would continue. There seems to be something special for the speaking angel. The word "certain" or "particular" is palmoniy is used only one time in the Bible. It means "numberer of secrets" or "wonderful numberer". The Answer was GIVEN TO Daniel, not to the reuesting angel. The oppression would continue for 2300 evenings and mornings (6 years and 110 days @ 30 days per month, 360 days per year). How literally may Daniel's prophecy be reckoned?

One commentator Adam Clarke says if one starts at the time of the oppression of the Jews and the destruction of the city by Antiochus Epiphane (August 5, 171 B.C.) and counts 2300 YEARS, one gets to 1966 A.D. There was a cleansing because the Jews were coming back to the "Promised Land" after years of exile. However, there was a definite, historic cleansing of the temple after the overthrow of Anitichus in 165 B.C. The entire war history is documented in 1st and 2nd Maccabees in the Apocrypha. Judas Maccabaeus, who with his family lead the revolt against Antiochus, cleansed the temple about December 25, 165 B.C. Tracing the chronology in reverse, 2300 days brings us to 171 B.C., when Antiochus began his harassment of the Jews. This is generally accepted by scholars as the meaning of Daniel.

Daniel saw what appeared to be a man. Then the voice of a man from the river then told Gabriel to tell Daniel the interpretation of the visions. Many believe the voice was of God and the man was a Christophany, which is the appearance of Jesus before He was born on earth. That Gabriel was brought in to explain the vision is an indication of the importance and power of the vision. This was the first appearance in the Bible of Gabriel. He appears again in chapter 9. He also appeared to Zacharias (husband of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist) according to Luke (Luke 1:19) He also appears to tell Mary of the coming Jesus (Luke 1:26)

Daniel was so frightened and overcome of this strange celestial being that he fell down prostrate in front of Gabriel. The first thing Gabriel says is to pay close attention to what he says. Gabriel was probably trying to somewhat comfort Daniel about the resolution of oppression by giving Daniel the visions. The visions indicated an end; not something that would never end.

Daniel suddenly fell into a deep sleep while on the ground. Gabriel touches him and Daniel rises. The seeing of the being sucked all the energy out of him. This is not the only time sleep comes from God (Gen.15:12; Job 4:13).

Gabriel's analysis of the dream led Daniel to an understanding that went even beyond the vision itself. This verse speaks of "the latter time of the indignation". In verse 23, the "latter time of their kingdom" is the subject, a time when an exceedingly fierce and able king (Antiochus Epiphanes) will arise out of the former four kingdoms, from the western segment. There is a definite divine time end.

See also Isa. 10:5, 25; 26:20 for verification of God's hatred for the oppressions of the Jews by certain empires. They will be overcome.

The term kings in the Bible sometimes just refers to the kingdoms or empires of a king. The context describes the true meaning. In Daniel, much of the time it is referencing the empires. The ram with the two horns were the kings of Media and Persia, most likely the actual kings were Astyages and Cyrus, resp. The rough or hard goat was the the empire of Greece. The horn in the head was the first, hardest, and primary king of Greece, Alexander the Great.

By the horn being broken (i.e. Alexander the Great dying), other leaders who do not have and would not ever have the power of Alexander will come out. This was signified by the four horns.

After the four kings have "run their course" of agression, there arises another with no comparison to the others for aggression. The king is one of the most horrible kingdoms that the Jews had to face. Most believe this is Antiochus Epiphanes. Some try to bring in the Roman empire. The descriptions seem to fit Antiochus more accurately at this time. "Understanding dark sentences" refers to crafty, organized, political, and, most important, wants his own way. There is nothing the king would would not do to get his own way.

The king's power would be mighty BUT not by his own power. This is a statement that seems to say that God steps in to direct by means of the people Hw puts into or allows to be put into positions of leadership (John 19:11; Isa. 10:5). God allowed Antiochus to have the powition for God's reasons and by His powers, not Antiochus'. He will destroy the hosts of God (holy people) and their possessions and foundations. In the mean time he would also get rich.

"Through his policy" means, properly, with intelligence, understanding, and wisdom; and then, in a bad sense, craft, cunning. This man will become in his own heart the greatest, the best. This king (Antiochus) directed his anger toward the holy people and even dared to stand up before the Prince of princes, God. For some, the Roman empire rose and defied Jesus (the Prince of princes). Antiochus would be broken without man's hand has to mean by God's hand he would be destroyed. Antiochus died suddenly and strangely on a trip to Persia. An allusion to these same events is found in Rev. 13; the great king is the beast from the sea. However, this king shall be broken "without human means".

The vision of the 2300 days was true and would be fulfilled. Daniel was further informed that this vision would be documented and then shut up for many days. Many days will elapse before all the visions are accomplished.

Daniel's understandable response to all of this was to faint, followed by some days of illness. After he recuperates from the illness, he goes back to doing his job, the king's work. Apparently he talked to others about the visions and they had no understanding.

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