EVIL WORLD EMPIRES MAGNIFY THEIR POWER AND INFLUENCE BUT ULTIMATELY WILL ALL BE BROKEN BY THE SOVEREIGN POWER OF GOD
Stephen Miller: In the previous chapter God had given a preview of world history with emphasis on the end times, particularly the evil activities of the Antichrist. God’s people also needed to be warned of another crisis that would come in less than four hundred years after Daniel’s lifetime—the persecutions of a madman named Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–163 B.C.). It would be one of the most horrible periods in history for believers, a time when the very existence of the true religion and its adherents was threatened. God knew that for those brief—only a few years—but extremely dark days his people would need a supernatural revelation to encourage them as they faced their “great tribulation.”
Andrew Hill: The Aramaic section of Daniel opened and closed with a preview of world history, a series of four earthly kingdoms replaced by a fifth heavenly kingdom (2:4–49 and 7:1–28). Daniel’s second vision (ch. 8) not only marks the resumption of the Hebrew portion of the book, but it also signals a narrowing of the focus of God’s revelation to his servant. In contrast to the earlier pattern of four distinct animals used to represent four realms or kingdoms, the vision of ch. 8 features only two animal figures symbolizing but two earthly empires. The setting of the vision shifts as well, presumably from Babylon (7:1) to Susa (8:2). The date formula (v.1) sets the vision during the third year of King Belshazzar (ca. 551 or 550 BC), which means the events of ch. 8 actually precede the events recorded in ch. 5 of the book.
Tremper Longman III: The connection of Daniel 8 with chapter 7 is obvious. The first verse associates the two by introducing the second vision as occurring “after the one that had already appeared to me.” It comes from approximately the same time period, Belshazzar’s third year, two years after chapter 7. In addition, the actors in the prophetic visions of both chapters are animals, and we soon see that these animals represent kingdoms, that is, political entities. In both cases, there is a concluding focus on a horn that emanates from these animals. Finally, both chapters concern hostility between the animal kingdoms and the divine realm.
But closer examination forces us to recognize differences between the chapters as well. Some appear relatively incidental to the meaning of the text. For instance, the prophecy in chapter 7 is called a dream, whereas the prophecy in eight is termed a “vision.” From the description of the two, the distinction is not so much in terms of content or form, but rather in terms of the way the prophecy is mediated to Daniel.
Another difference between the prophecies of the two chapters has to do with the nature of the animals and the transparency of the imagery. In chapter 7, we encountered hybrid animals of grotesque appearance, while in chapter 8, the animals seem normal (with the possible exception of the horns). In our description below, we will see the ease with which we can associate these animals and their horns with particular and well-known political entities. This fact explains why commentators over the years have registered little of the interpretive disagreement that we saw in chapter 7.
The similarities between these two chapters mean that the themes of the two are closely related. Indeed, we have already indicated that chapters 7–12 focus on six important themes:
• the horror of human evil, particularly as it is concentrated in the state• the announcement of a specific time of deliverance
• repentance that leads to deliverance
• the revelation that a cosmic war stands behind human conflict
• judgment as certain for those who resist God and oppress his people
• the equally certain truth that God’s people, downtrodden in the present, will experience new life in the fullest sense.
Iain Duguid: Like the vision in Daniel 7, this vision describes a series of kingdoms in the form of animals that exalt themselves, with one kingdom rising after another, aspiring to greatness and achieving it, but then being shattered. The ram seems invincible until the goat arises, but then he is swiftly destroyed. The first horn of the goat throws the ram to the ground and no one can rescue the ram from the horn’s power, but at the height of his power, the large horn too is shattered. In other words, no matter how great and menacing an empire may appear to be, it is simply an actor in a play written by someone else. It plays out the role assigned to it by God on the revolving stage of world history, and then, when its lines are over, it slinks off ignominiously into the wings. The rise and fall of these real historical nations, predicted accurately centuries ahead of time by the Lord through his prophets, remind us clearly who is directing the course of history. Earthly thrones and dominions come and go in a ceaseless round; only the kingdom of God is forever.
The message of the vision was thus good news to generations of saints who suffer at the hands of earthly kingdoms, whether the Babylonians, or the subsequent Persians and Greeks, or present-day persecutors. These empires that to human eyes looked so powerful, that seemed to have no weaknesses or chinks in their armor, were actually merely sheep and goats whose destiny lay in the hands of the divine shepherd, the Lord himself. They weren’t even the cosmically frightening monsters of Daniel 7, but only overgrown domestic animals. Like any good shepherd, the Lord is easily able to judge mere sheep and goats who step out of line and to put them back in their place (see Ezek. 34).
John Walvoord: It may be concluded that this difficult passage apparently goes beyond that which is historically fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes to foreshadow a future personage often identified as the world ruler of the end time. In many respects this ruler carries on a persecution of Israel and desecration of the temple similar to what was accomplished historically by Antiochus. This interpretation of the vision may be regarded as an illustration of double fulfillment of prophecy or, using Antiochus as a type, the interpretation may go on to reveal additional facts which go beyond the type in describing the ultimate king who will oppose Israel in the last days. He indeed will be “broken without hand” at the time of the second advent of Jesus Christ. . .
The emphasis of the eighth chapter of Daniel is on prophecy as it relates to Israel; and for this reason, the little horn is given prominence both in the vision and in the interpretation. The times of the Gentiles, although not entirely a period of persecution of Israel, o
ften resulted in great trial to them. Of the four great world empires anticipated by Daniel, only the Persian empire was relatively kind to the Jew. As Christ Himself indicated in Luke 21:24, the times of the Gentiles is characterized by the treading down of Jerusalem, and the subjugation and persecution of the people of Israel.
I. (:1-14) VISION OF THE RAM, MALE GOAT AND LITTLE HORN
A. (:1-4) Vision of the Ram with Two Horns
1. (:1) Timing and Sequencing of the Vision
“In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously.”
Stephen Miller: Since Belshazzar became coregent with his father, Nabonidus, in 553 B.C., the third year of his rule would have been approximately 550 B.C. About this time Cyrus established the Medo-Persian Empire, destined to bring an end to the period of Babylonian supremacy within a mere twelve years. Nabonidus, observing this union, became apprehensive about Cyrus’s intentions and attempted to forge an alliance with Lydia and Egypt to protect himself against a possible Medo-Persian threat. The whole world was anxiously watching to see what Cyrus would do. God may have given the vision at this particular time to assure Daniel and his fellows that the Jews would survive as a people long after Cyrus (and Belshazzar) had passed from the scene. By now Daniel was an old man, about seventy, yet he still was faithfully serving the Lord.
Andrew Hill: The repetition of verbs of “seeing” (vv.1, 3–5, 7) “conveys something of the involvement of the seer’s consciousness as he oriented himself first to the fact that he was receiving a vision, then to his geographical surroundings, and finally to the particular image presented to his gaze” (Baldwin, 155).
John Whitcomb: See in this chapter how this Neo-Babylonian Empire expanded and became prominent and then how it collapsed. Daniel is well aware of Ezekiel’s prophecies (who had recently died).
2. (:2) Setting of the Vision
“And I looked in the vision, and it came about while I was looking, that I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision, and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal.”
Stephen Miller: Susa (Heb. šušān, called Susa by the Greeks) was located about 220 miles east of Babylon and 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf. At the time of Daniel’s vision it was the capital of Elam and later became one of the Medo-Persian royal cities (cf. Neh 1:1 and 2:1; Esth 1:2). Susa was used as a winter residence by the Persian kings and was made the administrative capital of the empire by Darius I in 521 B.C. Darius also built a beautiful palace there.
John Walvoord: Most expositors, whether liberal or conservative, understand Daniel 8 to teach that Daniel was actually in Babylon and in vision only was transported to Shushan. . . Ezekiel also was transported in vision, presumably (Eze 8:3; 40:1 ff.).
3. (:3-4) The Focal Point of the Vision = the Power of the Ram
a. (:3) Power Pictured by Two Distinct Horns
“Then I lifted my gaze and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last.”
Stephen Miller: Rams normally have two horns, but these horns were unique. One horn came up later yet grew longer than the other. Scholars agree that the symbolism denotes the two divisions of the empire, Media and Persia, and signifies that one part of this empire would begin with less strength yet subsequently become more powerful than the other division. That such was the case is evident from Medo-Persian history. Before Cyrus came to power, Media already was a major force, while Persia was a small country holding less than fifty thousand square miles of territory.15 But Cyrus succeeded in gaining control of powerful Media to the north (ca. 550 B.C.) and then made Persia the more important of the two states. With these nations united, he established the vast Medo-Persian Empire.
b. (:4a) Power Demonstrated by Geographic Conquests
“I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him, nor was there anyone to rescue from his power;”
John Whitcomb: The ram (male sheep) speaks of empire under the direction of Cyrus who conquered nations in every direction as he expanded big time. Why are empires depicted as ravenous beasts? They are worse than sinless animals. They oppress other nations on a rampage under satanic direction.
Stephen Miller: The ram seemed invincible as it charged toward the west (lit., “toward the sea,” a reference to the Mediterranean Sea, which was west of Palestine), the north, and the south. Medo-Persia made most of its conquests in these directions. To the west it subdued Babylonia, Syria, Asia Minor, and made raids upon Greece; to the north—Armenia, Scythia, and the Caspian Sea region; to the south—Egypt and Ethiopia.
John Goldingay: There is nothing inherently wrong with “doing big things”; but the expression is used in an unequivocally good sense only of God (1 Sam 12:24; Ps 126:2, 3). Of human beings it tends to suggest arrogance (Jer 48:26; Joel 2:20; Zeph 2:10; Ps 35:26; Ps 55:12 ), or at least achievement at someone else’s expense (Zeph 2:8; Lam 1:9). Here it is achievement that presages calamity. The expression has the foreboding ambiguity of the mouth speaking big things in 7:8, 20.
c. (:4b) Power Celebrated by the Magnification of the Ram
“but he did as he pleased and magnified himself.”
B. (:5-8) Vision of the Male Goat Attacking the Ram = Alexander the Great
1. (:5) Description of the Male Goat
a. Swiftness of Conquests
“While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming
from the west over the surface of the whole earth
without touching the ground;”
John Whitcomb: Male goat of Alexander the Great now attacks th
e male sheep. He didn’t last long but at the age of 22 he starts here. God will use him to crush a great Medo-Persian Empire that had become complacent and corrupt under the leadership of Darius III. He built a causeway out to Tyre and conquered it. Then he moved down into the Holy Land and shown the Jewish scriptures – particularly the book of Daniel. This third empire was eventually shattered into 4 parts after his death.
Alexander the Great had army of about 40,000 – very powerful and able to move swiftly. Able to destroy the Medo-Persian Empire.
b. Power of Conquests
“and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes.”
Stephen Miller: Gabriel again interpreted the vision for Daniel. In v. 21 the goat is specifically identified as a symbol of the Greek Empire, and the “prominent” horn is stated to represent its first king, who, of course, was Alexander the Great. The rest of the symbolism is not explained in the text but is clear from history. Coming “from the west” points to the position of Greece, which was to the west of Medo-Persia (and Palestine). “Crossing the whole earth” means that Alexander conquered the world of his day, and the goat speeding across the globe “without touching the ground” portrays the swiftness of Alexander’s conquests.
Alexander was one of the great military strategists of history. He was born in 356 B.C., the son of a great conqueror in his own right, Philip of Macedon. Philip had united Greece with Macedonia and was planning to attack Persia when he was murdered. Alexander, educated under the famed Aristotle, was only twenty in 336 B.C. when he succeeded his father as king. A year and a half later (334 B.C.), he launched his attack against the Persians. In that same year Alexander won the Battle of Granicus in Asia Minor, thereby bringing to an end the dominance of the Medo-Persian Empire. With his subsequent victories at Issus (333 B.C.) and Arbela (331 B.C.) the conquest of Medo-Persia was complete. Incredibly within only three years Alexander had conquered the entire Near East.
2. (:6-7) Destruction of the Ram by the Goat
a. (:6) Angry Attack
“And he came up to the ram that had the two horns,
which I had seen standing in front of the canal,
and rushed at him in his mighty wrath.”
b. (:7a) Superior Strength
“And I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns,
and the ram had no strength to withstand him.”
c. (:7b) Crushing Conquest
“So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him,
and there was none to rescue the ram from his power.”
Stephen Miller: The goat charging the ram in a fit of “great rage” (v. 6) aptly describes Alexander’s assault on the Persian Empire. Hatred for the Persians had grown steadily since the time of Cyrus due to constant quarreling and fighting between Persia and Greece, and the Greeks were especially bitter over the invasions of Darius I (490 B.C.) and his son, Xerxes I (480 B.C.). Alexander determined to avenge these assaults on his homeland, and v. 7 graphically portrays the utter defeat of the Persian armies at the hands of the Greek forces.
John Walvoord: The forces of Alexander first met and defeated the Persians at the Granicus River in Asia Minor in May 334 B.C., which was the beginning of the complete conquest of the entire Persian Empire. A year and a half later a battle occurred at Issus (November 333 B.C.) near the northeastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea. The power of Persian was finally broken at Gaugamela near Nineveh in October 331 B.C.
There is no discrepancy between history, which records a series of battles, and Daniel’s representation that the Persian Empire fell with one blow. Daniel is obviously describing the result rather than the details. That the prophecy is accurate, insofar as it goes, most expositors concede. Here again, the correspondence of the prophecy to later history is so accurate that liberal critics attempt to make it history instead of prophecy.
3. (:8a) Magnification of the Male Goat
“Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly.”
4. (:8b) Division of the Goat’s Empire into Four Realms
a. Surprising Sudden Destruction
“But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken;”
John Whitcomb: Alexander the Great died at age of 33.
b. Subdivisions of the Kingdom
“and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns
toward the four winds of heaven.”
Stephen Miller: When Alexander (the large horn) died, he left two sons, Alexander IV and Herakles, both of whom were murdered. After a period of infighting and struggle, the empire came to be partitioned among four Greek military leaders (“four prominent horns”), who are commonly designated as the Diadochi (“successors”). This division took place roughly according to the four directions (cf. 11:4, and see the discussion at 7:6). This fourfold division of the Greek Empire after Alexander “has been the almost constant interpretation of the four [kingdoms], with variations as to the names of the Diadochi.” Archer observes that some of these areas later gained their independence but correctly notes that “the initial division of Alexander’s empire was unquestionably fourfold.”
C. (:9-12) Vision of the Little Horn = Antiochus IV Epiphanes
1. (:9) Dramatic Geographic Expansion
“And out of one of them came forth a rather small horn
which grew exceedingly great toward the south,
toward the east,
and toward the Beautiful Land.”
Stephen Miller: Out of one of the four horns grew a little horn that “started small” but became very large and powerful. The meaning is that from one of the divisions of the Greek Empire would emerge a king of unusual significance. Scholars agree that this little horn represents the eighth ruler of the Seleucid Greek Empire, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–163 B.C.). A
ntiochus IV was particularly important because of his exploits against the inhabitants of Palestine and for that reason received special attention in the Book of Daniel (cf. 11:21–35).
Starting “small” (Heb. ṣā‘îr, “little with the idea of insignificant”) indicates that Antiochus would have an insignificant beginning. Although his nephew, son of his older brother Seleucus IV, was the rightful heir to the throne, Antiochus gained this position through bribery and flattery. He made notable conquests in “the south” (Egypt), “the east” (Persia, Parthia, Armenia), and “the Beautiful Land” (Palestine). Palestine is called “Beautiful” (ṣebî, “place of beauty or honor”; cf. 11:16, 41; Jer 3:19) not because of its scenery but because of its spiritual significance. It was a place of beauty and honor because Yahweh God had chosen it as the center of his operations on the earth and because his people lived there. Though Palestine was in the southern regions, it is singled out because the little horn’s rule over the holy land would have enormous consequences for the Jewish people.
2. (:10) Degrading Persecution of God’s People
“And it grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down.”
Stephen Miller: This king (the little horn) will become so arrogant that he is willing to assert himself against the saints of God and even against God himself. “Threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them” signifies that Antiochus would persecute the Jewish saints in Palestine. “Trampled upon them” suggests severe persecution. Antiochus’s persecution of the Jews may be considered to have begun in 170 B.C. with the assassination of the high priest Onias III and terminated in 163 B.C. at his death (or even a few months earlier when the temple was rededicated in December 164 B.C.). During this period he executed thousands of Jews who resisted his unfair regulations. In 169 B.C., after a humiliating experience in Egypt when Antiochus was turned back by the Roman commander Popilius Laenas, the Syrian king plundered the temple in Jerusalem (taking its treasures, including the furniture that was adorned with precious metals) and committed “deeds of murder” (cf. 1 Macc 1:20–24; 2 Macc 5:1ff.). In 2 Macc 5:11–14 these “deeds of murder” are said to have included the slaughter of eighty thousand men, women, boys, girls, even infants by Antiochus’s soldiers during this attack upon Jerusalem. Many other ways in which Antiochus “trampled” upon the Jewish saints are recorded in 1 Maccabees (e.g., 1 Macc 1:29–32, 41–64). In December 167 B.C. Antiochus committed his crowning act of sacrilege against the Jewish religion by erecting an altar to Zeus in the temple precincts and offering swine on it (cf. 1 Macc 1:37, 39, 44–47, 54, 59; 2 Macc 6:2–5).
3. (:11) Defilement of Worship
a. Magnification of the Little Horn
“It even magnified itself to be equal with
the Commander of the host;”
b. Cessation of Sacrifices
“and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him,”
c. Desecration of Sanctuary
“and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down.”
John Whitcomb: “Prince of the Host” = God of Israel; God of the world. Book of First Maccabees preserved by God to record the abominations of Antiochus Epiphanes. He caused the sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem to cease and put in place instead a pig. He wanted to wipe out every vestige of Judaism. God allowed this because of the great transgression of the Jews. He wanted a unified empire that would not be opposed to his rule and his god and his religion.
Stephen Miller: Not only would the “horn” consider himself the Prince’s equal; he would also set himself “against” the Prince (an alternate translation of the Heb.). He felt that he and his Greek gods were above Yahweh, and he blatantly attacked Yahweh and his worshipers. For example, Antiochus insisted that the Jews refrain from following the Jewish religious laws (diet, circumcision, Sabbaths, and feasts); he desecrated Yahweh’s temple; he required allegiance to himself and the Greek gods rather than to Yahweh; and he showed disrespect to Yahweh by persecuting his followers (cf. 1 Macc 1:41–50). These were blatant offenses not only against the saints but against their God, “the Prince of the host.”
4. (:12) Dominion over the Truth
“And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper.”
Andrew Hill: The opening phrase of v.12, “because of rebellion” (“on account of transgression,” NASB), is obscure (cf. Miller, 226; Lucas, 206). The word “rebellion” or “transgression” (Heb. pāšaʿ) suggests that the horn’s tyrannical rule over God’s people is divine retribution for Israel’s (unspecified) sin. If so, it helps explain the placement of Daniel’s prayer of confession immediately after the vision of the ram and the goat (although the date formula places the event a dozen years or so after the vision; cf. 9:1).
Stephen Miller: these clauses may also mean that Antiochus would “act as he pleases and prosper” (cf. NASB). The latter understanding of the passage well describes Antiochus’s actions. For a time he held absolute power over Palestine and was successful in his military and political endeavors.
D. (:13-14) Duration of Temple Defilement and Subjugation
1. (:13) Query – How Long?
“Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?’”
Stephen Miller: The angel’s question is, How long would temple worship cease and the persecution of the saints described in Daniel’s vision continue? No services would be held in the temple because it would be defiled by Antiochus, and idols would be set up in the temple precincts. “The rebellion that causes desolation” likely alludes to the Zeus statue (or altar) set up by Antiochus in the temple and designated in 11:31 “the abomination that causes desolation.” The angel desired to know the duration of this period of desolation. Here it is demonstrated that angels are deeply interested in the affairs of God’s people.
comb: Angels are fascinated and want to look into God’s agenda on the earth. What is going on and How long will this last?
2. (:14) Response – 2300 Days
“And he said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings;
then the holy place will be properly restored.’”
John Goldingay: The central feature in the act of deliverance would be not the destruction of an enemy but the fate of a sanctuary. That prospect was reflected in the way the holy one set a term to the offensive events: they would last for a period conceived in terms of how long daily sacrifices would be suspended. The climax of the deliverance would come with the vindication of the sanctuary.
Tremper Longman III: It is with the interpretation of this chronological statement that we encounter the most disagreement about the interpretation of the symbolism of the chapter. Literally, the phrase translates “evening, morning—two thousand, three hundred.” Does this mean 2300 days, reflecting the language of Genesis 1 (“there was evening, and there was morning—the [Xth] day”)? Or does it mean 1150 days, with the reference to evening and morning being to the daily sacrifices? In other words, were there 1150 morning sacrifices and 1150 evening sacrifices, totaling 2300 sacrifices but 1150 days?
It is also possible to fit both numbers, approximately, into the time of its fulfillment in the middle of the second century B.C. After all, when does the period start, with the prohibition of sacrifice in late 167 or earlier with the removal of Onias III from the high priesthood in 171? And when does it end, with the reconsecration of the high priesthood in 164 or in 163 when Antiochus died? Or, contrary to both of these literalistic interpretations, is the number symbolic?
John Whitcomb: Time period here is 2300 days (6 years and 4 months) after the pattern of expression in Genesis 1. Sanctuary finally rescued from Syrian army by a family of dedicated Jews (the Maccabeans).
Andrew Hill: Goldingay, 210, summarizes the vision by commenting that the “army, sanctuary, and truth are all portrayed as victims of the goat’s charging and butting.”
II. (:15-26) INTERPRETATION OF THE VISION BY THE ANGEL GABRIEL
A. (:15-22) Interpretation of the Ram and the Male Goat
1. (:15-17) Angelic Exposition of the Vision
a. (:15a) Understanding of the Vision Sought by Daniel
“And it came about when I, Daniel, had seen the vision,
that I sought to understand it;”
b. (:15b-16) Understanding of the Vision Channeled thru Gabriel
“and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man.
And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai,
and he called out and said,
‘Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.’”
John Whitcomb: This is probably the voice of God Himself. Gabriel is already thousands of years old. Angels don’t age. Gabriel is going to make an amazing announcement of what will come next. Events will be a foreshadowing of what will take place at the end of the age under Antichrist. Repeated Emphasis is that these events culminate in the “time of the end.” Antiochus was not at the end of the world. The Roman Empire still had to come, etc. We are talking here about eschatology and great complexity of events.
c. (:17) Ultimate Fulfillment of the Vision Relates to Eschatology
“So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came
I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, ‘Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.’”
2. (:18-22) Accurate but Abbreviated Identification of the Details in the Vision
a. (:18-19) Emphasis on Future Fulfillment
“Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright. 19 And he said, ‘Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of the indignation, for it pertains to the appointed time of the end.’”
Andrew Hill: The “time of wrath” likely refers to the period of Hebrew history from the Babylonian exile onward, that era covered by the rise and fall of the four kingdoms described in the statue dream of ch. 2 and the vision of animals arising out of the sea in ch. 7 (cf. Lucas, 220). The qualifier “later” refers to the Seleucid persecution of the Hebrews by Antiochus IV Epiphanes as indicated in the interpretation of the vision of the shaggy goat in vv.23–25.
The second temporal expression, “the appointed time of the end” (Heb. lemô ʿēd qēṣ) is parallel to the phrase “the time of the end” used earlier by the interpreting angel (v.17). The idea behind the phrase “the end” (Heb. qēṣ; GK 7891) is a punctiliar moment in time, the end of the kingdom of Anitiochus IV and hence his persecution of the Hebrews, and the reconsecration of the Jerusalem temple (v.14). The fact that this is “the appointed time of the end” emphasizes that “the ‘time’ has been set . . . by the Lord of history” (Miller, 233), underscoring God’s sovereignty over the historical process. “The important point scored in this talk of the wrath of God is that God is still in charge, not human powers, despite signs to the contrary” (Seow, 128–29).
b. (:20) Ram = Medo-Persian Kingdom
“The ram which you saw with the two horns
represents the kings of Media and Persia.”
John Whitcomb: This makes it crystal clear that the fourth kingdom is Rome. This makes it clear that Daniel is dealing with predictive prophecy despite the skepticism of liberal scholars.
c. (:21a) Goat = Kingdom of Greece
“And the shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece,”
d. (:21b) Large Horn = Alexander the Great
large horn that is between his eyes is the first king.”
e. (:22) Four Horns = Four Less Powerful Subdivided Kingdoms
“And the broken horn and the four horns that arose in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power.”
B. (:23-26) Interpretation of the Little Horn = Focus of the Vision –
Antiochus as a Type of Antichrist
Stephen Miller: Verses 23–26 are the heart of the vision and the reason for the revelation to Daniel. God disclosed this historical summary to the prophet to prepare the Jewish people for the coming crisis—Antiochus’s persecution. Biblical revelations of the future are given by the Lord to his people to exhort faithfulness, to encourage during difficult days, and to comfort in suffering.
Toward the end of Greek rule was when Antiochus would come to power. The “rebels” (happōšĕ‘îm) are those who have rebelled against God’s law. As explained in the discussion of v. 12, these rebels are best taken to be Jews who have forsaken their God. “When rebels have become completely wicked” may indicate the time when the sin of these rebels has reached the point where God deems punishment appropriate (cf. Gen 15:16; Matt 23:32; 1 Thess 2:16).
A “stern” (’az, “mighty, strong, fierce”) face means that the king who will arise will be harsh in manner and in his treatment of those who oppose him. Slotki interprets the word to signify “unyielding, merciless,” citing Deut 28:50.51 “A master of intrigue” (mēbîn ḥîdôt) is literally “one who understands riddles or difficult problems.” In 1 Kgs 10:1 ḥîdôt is used of the perplexing questions that the Queen of Sheba put to Solomon. Here the phrase may signify that the king will be a master of political intrigue (NIV, NASB) or that he will be able to solve difficult problems within his kingdom. Political “intrigue” probably is the idea. Scholars agree that this wicked king, Antiochus IV, was indeed “a master of intrigue.”
1. (:23) Description of the Final Wicked King
“And in the latter period of their rule, When the transgressors have run their course, A king will arise Insolent and skilled in intrigue.”
John Goldingay: Two key aspects of Daniel’s portrait of Antiochus are summarized in v. 23b and expanded in vv. 24 and 25:85 his ruthless boldness and his artful cleverness. These characteristics are not mere randomly observed aspects of a particular person’s character. Nor does the seer imply that Antiochus only looks fierce and/or that he compensates for lack of real strength by trickery. Used for evil ends, Antiochus’s two characteristics are both elements in the standard portrayal of a tyrant. They are not so much descriptions of Antiochus’s distinctive personal character as elements in a stylized characterization of him as a wicked king.
2. (:24-25a) Details of His Power and Tactics
a. (:24) Details of His Power and Destruction
“And his power will be mighty, but not by his own power,
And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree
And prosper and perform his will;
He will destroy mighty men and the holy people.”
John Whitcomb: He shall have satanic power. He is a very arrogant, proud, boastful monarch. He will suddenly collapse by supernatural judgment.
b. (:25a) Details of His Tactics and Arrogance
1) Characterized by Shrewdness and Deceit
“And through his shrewdness
He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence;”
2) Motivated by Magnifying Himself
“And he will magnify himself in his heart,”
3) Treacherous Attacks on the Unsuspecting
“And he will destroy many while they are at ease.”
4) Arrogant Opposition to Christ
“He will even oppose the Prince of princes,”
3. (:25b) Destruction by Divine Agency
“But he will be broken without human agency.”
Norman Porteous: The power and success of Antiochus are quickly indicated, his conquests and in particular his actions directed against ‘the people of the saints’ (i.e. the Jews). There is an evident link here with 7:25. The Hebrew of v. 25 is difficult but may be made to yield the meaning that the king’s mind is always busy hatching plots which he carries through to a great measure of success. He is full of grandiose plans—that is what this Jew felt about Antiochus’s plans for unifying his kingdom in which he may well have been imitating the policy of Alexander though without his vision and genius—and in putting them into execution he catches men when off their guard.
Greg Thurston: Again, there is little question that this is referring to Antiochus Epiphanes- an extremely evil and wicked leader who was quite hostile toward the people of God. Let me give you some background.
• In 169 BC, Antiochus IV (who called himself Theos Epiphanes- lit., “God-Incarnate”) travelled to Jerusalem where he replaced the high priest with a man of his own choosing. He then invaded Egypt, and while there a rumor of his death circulated among the Jews (much to their joy). Not surprisingly efforts were made to reinstate the genuine high priest whom Antiochus deposed.
• Yet Antiochus wasn’t dead! When he received word Jerusalem was revolting against the high priest he installed, he accused the Jewish people of rebellion, savagely attacked and sacked Jerusalem, and executed tens of thousands of its inhabitants (it is said that 40,000 people were executed within the space of three days)! He then travelled back to Jerusalem where he entered the holy of holies in the temple. There he sacrificed a pig on the altar of burnt offering, defiled the temple precincts, took the sacred furniture, and re-established Menelaus as high priest.
• This understandably resulted in major rebellion on the part of the Jews to which Antiochus reacted with a religious persecution of unprecedented bitterness! More than 20,000 of his soldiers massacred the Jews assembled for worship on a Sabbath day. Sabbath-keeping and the practice of circumcision were forbidden under the pain of death. Unclean meat w
as mandatory fare, and the Sabbath and other feast days were profaned. Pagan sacrifices and prostitution were established in the Temple. And a statue of Zeus was placed in the temple to which human sacrifices were offered on the altar!
4. (:26) Disposition of the Vision
“And the vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true; But keep the vision secret, For it pertains to many days in the future.”
Andrew Hill: The command to “seal up” the vision (v.26b) is due to the fact that “it concerns the distant future” (v.26c) and implies that the vision has been written down (cf. 7:1). The verb “to seal” (Heb. stm; GK 6258) may simply mean to close up in the sense of preserving and keeping it safe until the time when it is needed (cf. Goldingay, 218). The term may also denote keeping the interpretation of the vision “secret” (so NASB), given its relevance to the distant rather than the immediate future (cf. Collins, Daniel, 341–42). The verb “close up” (Heb. stm) is coupled with the verb “seal up” (Heb. ḥtm; GK 3159) in 12:4, 9 in the sense that Daniel is instructed to “close up and seal” the scroll or book of his visions both for the purposes of safeguarding them for the future and keeping them secret until the time of the generation for whom they were intended. Lucas, 221, notes here that on at least one occasion Ezekiel’s contemporaries dismissed what he said because his vision concerned “the distant future” (Eze 12:27).
Iain Duguid: The prophet is explicitly told to seal up the vision because it refers to a distant time (Dan. 8:26); it must be sealed, not so much in order to keep it secret but to keep it safe in the midst of turbulent times. Yet if the promised new world of Daniel 7 may still be a long way away, in the interim God’s people will need help to keep their faith fresh over the long haul. How do you persist in faith and obedience to God when you live under constant pressure and intense persecution, and it seems that there is no imminent end in sight? That is the issue that faces many of us from day to day, and it is the question with which Daniel 8 deals.
(:27) EPILOGUE – REACTION OF DANIEL
“Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days.”
“Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business;”
John Goldingay: Awareness of where history is going puts you into a complicated position. It indeed gives you confidence where you might otherwise have been overcome by worry: you know that a supernatural hand has already broken all evil power and that the risks you have to live with can be lived with. But you may also be awed and troubled, by having been put in touch with heavenly realities, by the knowledge of what the future may bring to you and to other people. And at the same time you have to get on with the job of living—which for Daniel means working and serving in the context of the ongoing life of the “horns.”
“but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it.”