Daniel 8 records a vision of Daniel. This vision is said to have occurred in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar (Daniel 8:1). Belshazzar was co-regent with his father Nabonidus (cf. Daniel 5:7, 29). He was the last of Babylon’s rulers, before it fell to Persia [Babylon’s rulers between Assyrian rule and Persian rule: (1) Nabopolassar (626-605 B.C.) (2) Nebuchadnezzar II (606-562 B.C.) (3) Evil – Merodach (562-560 B.C.) (4) Neriglissar (560-556 B.C.) (5) Labashi-Marduk (556 B.C.) (6) Nabonidus (556-539 B.C.) \ Belshazzar (c. 550-539 B.C.)]. The third year of his reign would be c. 548/547 B.C.. The vision foretells of coming kingdoms, and difficult times to come in Israel’s future. The intent, no doubt, is to build the faith of future generations.
“Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last” (Daniel 8:3).
The ram with two horns is Medo-Persia (Daniel 8:20). Media was more ancient. Persia was more powerful. The two would be united under Cyrus the Great. Cyrus was the son of Cambyses, King of Persia; he was the grandson of Astyage, King of Media, through his mother.
“I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great” (Daniel 8:4).
Don Simpson comments, “The three directions mentioned directs our attention to Persia’s greatest conquests: 1. Babylon, Syria, and Asia Minor to the west; 2. the regions around the Caspian Sea to the north; and 3. Egypt and Ethiopia to the south” (Simpson, A Textual Study of the Book of Daniel, p. 100).
“And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand” (Daniel 8:5-7).
The male goat is Greece (Daniel 8:21). Greece moved with speed. It is as if the feet of this animal does not even touch the ground. Greece moved with fury against Persia. Persia’s two earlier attempts to conquer Greece had infuriated them (492-490 B.C. and 480-479 B.C.). Greece defeated Persia at the Battle of Gaugamela, October 1, 331 B.C..
The notable horn between the eyes of the goat is its first king (Daniel 8:21). The is Alexander the Great.
“Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven” (Daniel 8:8).
Alexander’s kingdom ultimately, was divided into four parts, between four generals. (1) Cassander controlled Macedonia and Greece. (2) Lysimachus controlled Thrace and much of Asia Minor. (3) Seleucus controlled Syria and vast areas to the east. (4) Ptolemy controlled Egypt and areas to the South.
A Little Horn
“And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land… by him the daily sacrifices were taken away… Because of transgression an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifice… How long will the vision be concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled under foot? And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed‘” (Daniel 8:9-14).
The little horn is the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV, Epiphanes. He ruled from 175-164 B.C.. He went south into Egypt, east into Elymais and Armenia, and into the Glorious Land, Israel (see Rex Turner Sr., Daniel: A Prophet of God, p.159). The horror of his reign, on Israel, is well documented (1 Maccabees 1, 2 Maccabees 5, Josephus Antiquities 12; Josephus War 1). “He carried away the golden vessels and treasures of the temple, putting a stop to the sacrifices. He polluted the altar by offering up swine on it, knowing this was against the law of Moses. He compelled the Jews to give up their worship of God and to stop circumcising their children. Those who persisted were mutilated, strangled, or crucified with their children hung from their necks” (Josephus, The Essential Writings, p. 209-210). He made the sanctuary desolate (1 Maccabees 1:41).
Why did God allow this? The answer is, “because of transgression” (Daniel 8:12, 23). God used this evil man to punish Israel. “His power shall be mighty but not by his own power” (Daniel 8:24).
How long would this last? The answer is 2,300 days (Daniel 8:14), or literally 2,300 evenings and mornings (see E.S.V.). (1) Some understand this as 2,300 days. The ESV Study Bible reads, “perhaps signifying the period from 170 B.C., the death of Onias III, the high priest, to December 14, 164 (B.C.), when Judas Maccabeus cleansed and rededicated the temple cf. 1 Maccabees 4:52.” (2) Some understand this as 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices. That is: 1,150 days. This is just over 3 years. Josephus indicates that the temple was desolate for 3 years (Josephus Antiquities 12.7.6). (3) Some believe that the number is figurative. Don Simpson comments, “The number is 2,300 days, which is about 6 years and 4 months. This is short of seven years… The fact that the number falls short of seven may give reason to interpret it as just short of a complete number” (Simpson, p. 102). These time were difficult. They came close, but did not destroy Israel. Regardless of the view the point to keep in mind is that this would not continue forever. It would not last.
“But he shall be broken without human means” (Daniel 8:25).
God’s providence brought him down. He died of disease and in pain (2 Maccabees 6). We’re told “worms swarmed out of the body of this man… the man that thought a little before he could reach the stars of heaven, no man could endure to carry, for the intolerable stench” (2 Maccabees 9:10). He was no God. He was a man who died in a shameful state.
A Great Lesson
Always remember that God is ultimately in control. He gave man this power, and He took it away. May we remember, “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:17, 25).