The Vision of the Ram and the He-Goat (Mainly Characteristic) (8:1-14)
A Change of Setting (8:1-2)
1 In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king, a vision appeared unto me, even to me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was in the fortress of Shushan, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was by the river Ulai. v.2 from Daniel 1 – 7 the prophet had been in Babylon. But in ch.8, it says that when he was given this vision, he was “at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam,” which became a province of Persia. It was here “by the river of Ulai” that Daniel was given this vision. this is a hint to us that the empire of Persia is to be spoken of next.
The Persian Ram and His Conquests (8:3-4)
3 And 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; and one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. v.3 This “ram” is a symbolic description of “the kings of Media and Persia” (see v.20); and it represents the dual character of that empire, composed of Media and Persia (see Dan. 5:28, Dan. 6:8). One horn was higher than the other (more powerful), and this higher horn appeared after the other (chronologically after). This second horn was the Persian part of the kingdom, which ultimately gained the ascendancy, as Darius the Mede was succeeded by Cyrus the Persian. this is the same idea of the “bear” (dan. 7:5) who raised up itself on one side.
4 I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward, and no beast could stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; and he did according to his will, and became great. v.4 the ram pushing toward the west, and north, and south describes The victorious career of Cyrus, and the directions of his conquest. No power could stand against him or thwart his will. just read Ezra, Nehemiah, etc., and you will see how wide and undisputed the Persian dominion was.
The Grecian He-Goat (8:5)
Alexander the Great took the throne of Macedon at 20 years old, and by 30 years old he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders.
5 And as I was considering, behold, a he-goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. v.5 the goat represents “the king of Grecia,” (see v.21) where the word “king” here refers to the sovereignty of that empire. therefore, the “notable horn” represents the power of the empire, being Alexander the great! see note above on Alexander the Great. “from the west” – no great power had emerged from this region before! the characteristic feature of Alexander’s attacks was speed. this is described in the vision: “came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground.” In about ten years he conquered almost all the kingdoms of the then known world.
The Attack of Alexander upon Persia (8:6-7)
Grecian hatred for Persia. this hatred, seen in v.7, is a result of the Persian invasion of Greece which occurred 150 years earlier. The Grecians had blocked Persia under Darius I at the battle of Marathon, but his son Xerxes I launched a second campaign that was finally successful (see Daniel 11:2) with the use of massive infantry (possibly one million men) from India and Africa, employing the use of elephants. At the famous Battle of Thermopylae (“hot gates”), the Greek army (with King Leonidas of Sparta and his 300 men) held back the Persian army for seven days, before they were outflanked. this opened the way for the Persians to burn the Greek city of Athens. These events left a bitter hatred in the minds of many Grecians, and was vented on Persia under Darius III (the “king of kings”) under Alexander’s Persian campaign, specifically at the Battle of the Granicus, and the Battle of Issus.
Details of Alexander’s victories. while secular history is interesting, we have all the history we need in these verses. additional details might tend to glorify Alexander, instead of Christ who is the one the spirit glorifies.
The Battle of the Granicus – in May 334 B.C., in modern-day Turkey, near the site of Troy, in which Alexander was wounded by a battle ax (and almost dealt a death blow but was narrowly saved y one of his men), but the Persians were forced to retreat, giving half the territory of Asia minor into Alexander’s control.
The battle of Issus – in November 333 B.C., in Syria, Darius III had taken personal control of the Persian army, decided broke through their ranks. then mounted his beloved horse Bucephalus, took his place at the head of his cavalry, and to stage the battle on a river bank (which was a mistake because he outnumbered Alexander by huge odds). Alexander led a direct assault against Darius. This threw the Persian army into chaos. Darius III discarded his crown and fled. The Macedonian cavalry pursued the fleeing Persians for as long as there was daylight, and slaughtered the crowded, disorganized Persian army. After this Alexander laid siege to Tyre, and took the city. Then he laid siege to Gaza, and moved into Egypt, which quickly surrendered to him.
The Battle of Gaugamela (or, Arbela) – in 331 B.C., in what is now Kurdistan, outnumbered by at least 2:1, Alexander emerged victorious due to his army’s superior tactics and his use of light infantry. after retreating with his demoralized army through the Caspian Gates, Darius III was killed in a coup by his own men.
6 And he came to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran upon him in the fury of his power. v.6 Alexander’s attack on Persia was completed in a series of battles. remarkably, the two greatest battles were fought by rivers!
- THE BATTLE OF THE GRANICUS – forced Darius to retreat from Turkey
- THE BATTLE OF ISSUS – decimated the Persian army.
7 And I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged with him, and smote the ram, and broke his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him; and he cast him down to the ground, and trampled upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. v.7 “he was enraged with him.” this description is of a conscious, premeditated, vengeful attack. He stands before the ram, gets enraged, then hits him hard. historically, there was AN ESPECIALLY hostile feeling on the part of the Grecians because of the recent invasion of Greece. see note above. This description of the swift and decisive victory it a fitting summary of the historical account. and all this was revealed to Daniel three-hundred years before its accomplishment! he summarized these vast sections of human history with a few short sentences because the spirit’s real interest is in the events that take place at the end of the age. “cast him down to the ground, and trampled upon him” – within three short years, the Persian empire was reduced to nothing.
Division of Alexander’s Empire: Emergence of the Little Horn (8:8-12)
two “little horns”. This “little horn” is not to be confounded with the “little horn” of Daniel 7. The expression “little horn” may indicate that the person thus figured arises from the mass, and, under normal circumstances, would be a person of no consequence. The little horn of Daniel 7 is evidently the head of the revived Roman Empire, while the little horn of Daniel 8 is Antiochus Epiphanes, who is a figure of the apocalyptic king of the north.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes. the leader of the Seleucid empire. he had total disrespect for Jewish culture and the previously protected Jewish institutions. his policy resulted in harsh persecutions against the Jews. He attempted to force heathen worship upon the Jews, especially that of Jupiter Olympus. the APOCRYPHAL book of I Maccabees describes how Antiochus tried to suppress public observance of Jewish laws, in an attempt to secure control over the Jews. In 168 B.C., he desecrated the Temple by setting up an “abomination of desolation” (that is, establishing rites of pagan observance in the Temple, or sacrificing an unclean animal [a pig] on the altar in the Holy of Hollies). he put to death all the Jews who resisted his plans. Finally, partly by the growing roman power and partly by the force and courage of the Maccabees themselves, he was repressed and defeated, and the temple was once more cleansed again, and the Jewish worship resumed. but he is a type of the apocalyptic king of the north who will, filled with hatred for the Jews and Jehovah, sweep down through the land of Israel and destroy the Jewish temple, “for the sake of transgressions”… he is the great Desolater that God will use to judge apostate Israel.
8 And the he-goat became exceeding great; but when he was become strong, the great horn was broken; and in its stead came up four notable ones toward the four winds of the heavens. v.8 “became exceeding great” – his empire covered the known world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. when strong, “the great horn was broken” – this answers to Alexander’s death while quite a young man, in the midst of his victories. Alexander’s empire was divided (after squabbling) into four kingdoms (v.22), answering to the four heads of the leopard-beast (Dan. 7:6). See Dan. 11:4.
- Syria (northeast) – eventually becomes the king of the north
- Egypt (southeast) – eventually becomes the king of the south
- Greece (southwest) – soon succumbed to the advancing Roman power.
- Thrace (northwest) – soon succumbed to the advancing Roman power.
9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which became exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the beauty of the earth. v.9 The northeast and southeast kingdoms continued until about 50 B.C. the little horn arose out of Syria (the Seleucid Empire). this little horn was the king known as Antiochus Epiphanes. This little horn extended his kingdom, “toward the south” (Egypt, the Ptolemaic empire – he almost took it by conquest), “toward the east” (Parthia and Armenia), and, etc.; and “toward the pleasant land” (Palestine – he persecuted many of the jews). The details of Antiochus Epiphanes are fully developed in Dan. 11.
10 And it became great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and trampled upon them. v.10 the “host of heaven” here alludes to persons that held a place of authority in the Jewish political system. stars are used, in the New Testament, as the symbol of those who are set in a place of authority (Rev. 1:20; 2:1). This little horn, Antiochus Epiphanes, brutally attacked the ruling powers among the Jews, resulting in the Maccabean revolt.
vv.11-12a is a parenthesis. while the rest is historical, the details given in this parenthesis have a future fulfillment as well.
11 (And he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and from him the continual sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. v.11 the wording changes from “it” to “he”… now it is the personal deeds of the man Antiochus, more than the direction of his empire. The “prince of the host” is a reference to Jehovah. In profession, at least, the Jewish rulers were God’s servants. “from him [Jehovah] the continual sacrifice was taken away” – this would be a reference to the continual burnt offering re-instituted in the days of Zerubbabel. The place of [Jehovah’s] sanctuary is the rebuilt temple. In short, the little horn would suppress Jewish worship and desecrate the temple. all this is recorded in I Maccabees 1, and described in Psalm 79.
12a And a time of trial was appointed unto the continual sacrifice by reason of transgression.) v.12a this tells us that the suppression of Jewish worship was a result of “transgression”, the transgression of God’s people.
12b And it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised and prospered. v.12b the northern power would cast down the truth and, for a time, be allowed to prosper and accomplish great things.
The Duration of the Prophecies of this Vision (8:13-14)
13 And I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that one who spoke, How long shall be the vision of the continual sacrifice and of the transgression that maketh desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden down under foot? v.13 Daniel then heard one saint speaking to another, and asking how long would THE STATE OF THINGS OF WHICH THE VISION SPEAKS be allowed to continue. “the transgression that maketh desolate” refers to the particular sin that results in the sending of this little horn to desolate the land of israel, namely the sin of idolatry.
14 And he said unto me, Until two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings: then shall the sanctuary be vindicated. v.14
Speaking to Daniel, one saint says that the sanctuary and the host will be trodden underfoot for two thousand three hundred days, or nearly six and one half years. This was exactly the period in which the temple lay in a defiled condition, and the sacrifice discontinued. The 2300 days was brought to a close, partly by the growing Roman power interfering with the Seleucid empire, and partly by the force and courage of the Maccabees themselves. The temple was once more cleansed, and the Jewish worship resumed. This was accomplished in the winter time, and the Jews thenceforward commemorated it with “the feast of dedication” (John 10:22). Read more…
The Interpretation of the Vision (Mainly Prophetic) (8:15-27)
The Prophet Strengthened and Prepared for the Meaning (8:15-19)
15 And it came to pass, when I Daniel had seen the vision, I sought for the understanding of it, and behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. v.15 daniel was not content with the vision itself, but he “sought for the meaning.” This desire of his heart to understand the divine revelation in dependence on god is something that god approves of. and god rewards him!
16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai; and he called and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. v.16 perhaps the voice of the lord? it is his desire that daniel, and all students of prophecy, should understand these things.
17 And he came near where I stood; and when he came, I was afraid, and fell on my face; and he said unto me, Understand, son of man; for the vision is for the time of the end. v.17 this is a key. Daniel is definitely told that the vision looks on to the time of the end.
18 Now, as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep stupor, with my face toward the ground. And he touched me, and set me up where I had stood. v.18 Daniel, who is overcome by the vision of that which will happen to his people in the latter times, is strengthened to face the truth. sometimes unwillingness to face the truth can put us in a stupor. we need the lord to help us back on our feet. even in receiving bad news, we can have fellowship with God in it.
19 And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be at the end of the indignation: for at the set time the end shall be. v.19 daniel is told that the vision speaks of the events that will terminate the “indignation,” and that whatever sorrows intervene they will have a definite end — “at the time appointed the end shall be.” The term “indignation” refers to a period of 1335 – 1260 = 75 days in which the Lord will pour out his “Indignation” on apostate Israel and surrounding countries, then on those instruments used in the judgment (see Isa. 10:5; 26:20; Dan. 8:19; 11:36).
The Meaning of the Symbols (8:20-22)
20 The ram that thou sawest having the two horns: they are the kings of Media and Persia. v.20 The two-horned ram definitely represents the dual “kings” or sovereignty of Medo-Persia, the second world empire of Dan. 2 and 7.
21 And the rough goat is the king of Greece; and the great horn that was between his eyes is the first king. v.21 the he-goat is definitely the Grecian “king” or sovereignty, the third world empire, Greece. Also, the horn between his eyes (the smote the Persian empire) is here identified as the “first king” of the Grecian power. This makes absolutely clear that the big horn is Alexander the great.
22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up in its stead, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not with his power. v.22 the breaking up the horn and emergence of four notable horns is definitely the division of the Grecian Empire into four kingdoms. Another detail is added: “but not with his [Alexander’s] power”… none of the four would be as powerful or influential universally as Alexander was.
Added Details about the Little Horn (8:23-25)
The little horn of Daniel 8 is a figure of the same person that is spoken of, in various parts of the word of God, as the “Assyrian,” or “king of the north.” he is not to be confused with the little horn of chapter seven. The scripture speaks more about the Assyrian than about either the Beast or Antichrist. He is always described as the great foe of the Jews in the last days. Other figures applied to the Assyrian include:
- A “Whirlwind” (Dan. 11:40b-42).
- The “Overflowing Scourge” (Isa. 28:15-18)
- The “Bee that is in the land of Assyria” (Isa. 7:18)
- The coming “Wolf” (John 10:12)
- The “wild boar” out of the woods (Psa. 80:8-16)
- A “Forest fire” (Zech. 11:1-3).
Five names of the Assyrian.
- The Assyrian (Isaiah 14:25)
- The King of the North (Daniel 11:40)
- The Desolator (Daniel 9:27)
- The Exacter (Zechariah 9:8)
- The King of Bold Countenance (Daniel 8:23)
What was historically fulfilled and what is future? What Daniel saw – the vision – was fulfilled, historically, in Antiochus Epiphanes during the time of the Maccabees; but we now learn from Gabriel’s interpretation that this historical fulfillment was also prophetic of another fulfillment… “At the time of the end.” between v.22 and v.23 exists a space of 2000 years!
Antiochus as a prophetic type. Antiochus Epiphanes is the prophetic type of the king of the north, or the Assyrian. but what he did in Jerusalem, suppressing Jewish worship, setting up the abomination (Dan. 11:31-32), is a type of what Antichrist will do. The Jews will be exposed to two evils:
- from within – the Antichrist setting himself up as God in His temple; and
- from without – The Assyrian looking to invade Palestine and surrounding countries.
As the historical pattern for these future events, Antiochus Epiphanes represents both evils! but in ch.8 it is only the evil from without… the Assyrian. this is clear because if you notice the details with regard to “the sanctuary” and “the sacrifices” are mentioned in the vision, but left out in the interpretation! Naturally speaking, you would think that the types of the King of the North and the revived Roman Empire would be kept separate, but sometimes they are dual use. But that’s not the first time you get it in Prophecy… a good example is the Assyrian in the days of Isaiah. Ahaz is a type of Antichrist, he brings in the false worship (foreshadowing the abomination) through Urijah the priest into the temple. he also makes a covenant with the Assyrian for protection from Syria. Assyria is a type of the king of the North, not revived Rome! So it seems to me that the Spirit of God can make dual use out of one type. In sheltering Ahaz from Syria, the Assyrian is a type of revived Rome. But in sweeping down through in judgement, he is a type of the King of the North. Although, in prophecy the Assyrian will be the enemy of the Antichrist – completely distinct: the one will be the great self-exalting man inside the land, and the other the leader of the enemies outside. The same dual use is made of Antiochus Epiphanes.
His Character (v.23)
23 And at the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors shall have come to the full, a king of bold countenance, and understanding riddles, shall stand up. v.23 his character. the “latter time” of the king of the north is a future day, when a leader of that northeastern confederacy will emerge, at a time when the “transgressors” – the apostate Jewish nation – are come to the full. this king is:
- “of fierce countenance“– characterized by warlike power
- “understanding dark sentences” – takes the place of a great teacher, a solver of the world’s problems, which would naturally have much influence over the Jewish mind.
His Military Success (v.24)
24 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall destroy marvellously, and shall prosper, and shall practise, and shall destroy the mighty ones, and the people of the saints. v.24 his military success. he will have tremendous military power and political influence. He will be allowed to attack the holy people, and his attack will be very successful. Other places we read that two thirds of jews in palestine will fall under his attack (Zech. 13:8). “the mighty and the holy people” are the Jews, and the are called thus through relative sanctification (see Psalm 79).
His Religious Success (v.25a)
25a And through his cunning shall he cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he will magnify himself in his heart, and by prosperity will corrupt many; v.25a his religious success. through his religious policy he will increase the presence of the occult (craft), and rising satanism will turn circumstances to his advantage. he will be a master of occult knowledge. Perhaps “craft” might also indicate commercial enterprise? He will magnify himself in his heart, and will destroy many by “prosperity”, or by means of a false and religious security.
His Final Battle and End (v.25b)
25b and he will stand up against the Prince of princes: but he shall be broken without hand. v.25b His final battle. his end. after sweeping down through the land into Egypt, he will hear tidings out of the east and north (Dan. 11:44-45), and will return to Palestine (1290 days) and will meet “the Prince of Princes” the Lord Jesus Christ in open battle. He will be utterly destroyed.
Confirmation of the Vision and Daniel’s Response (8:26-27)
26 And the vision of the evening and the morning which hath been told is true; but close thou up the vision, for it is for many days to come. v.26 “the vision is true” – the accomplishment is a sure as god’s own character. “close up the vision” – Compare with Rev. 22:10… “seal not…” (see also Daniel 12:4). The bulk of old testament prophecies would not be fulfilled for a long time, although a near-application would be fulfilled usually at the time of writing. by contrast, New Testament prophecies are on our doorstep.
27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days: then I rose up, and did the king’s business. And I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it. v.27 this understanding made Daniel sick… similar to the little open book making John’s belly bitter (Rev. 10). But he carried on his daily walk with the Lord. We can apply this to ourselves… we need to be occupied with “the king’s business”. Yet he held a secret that no one else understood.