In Daniel 8, God gives Daniel another vision of the future. This vision occurs in the third year of Belshazzar’s reign, so two years after his first vision.
We have seen two visions of future kingdoms so far. In each one, the Lord God revealed some of the future progression of kingdoms in the world.
The first vision was given to Nebuchadnezzar. It consisted of a man with a golden head and a body made of different metals representing succeeding kingdoms. The last kingdom was a rock that that smashed the preceding kingdom and lasted forever, so we believe it to represent Christ and is eternal kingdom.
The second vision was also given to Nebuchadnezzar. In chapter 4, Daniel recorded the dream that represented Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation and restoration.
The third vision is Daniel’s first vision, recorded in chapter 7. It was a vision of of several beasts, also representing kingdoms in succession after Babylon. But in this one, we see Christ as the Son of Man, coming to the Father in heaven and receiving his kingdom and dominion over all the world.
Now, in verse 8, Daniel receives another vision that tells of future kingdoms. This succession of kingdoms gives us different views of the future of earthly kingdoms from time of Daniel onward. Where Daniel’s first vision gave symbolic pictures of the future and occurred in an unspecified place, this second vision gave specific details of the future (from Daniel’s time) and occurs in a specific place.
A Transporting Vision
When the vision began, Daniel was transported both in time and place. He went to Susa in Elam. Susa would become an important center of government for the Persian empire. In Daniel’s time, it is simply the capital of Elam. Elam had been an independent country, but had been conquered by and made a province of Babylonia. This vision is similar to Ezekiel’s visions, when he was transported to other places.
Daniel saw a ram with two horns, one higher than the other. The ram went west, north and south and none could stand before it. It was great and did as it pleased. The ram seemed invincible.
But then, a goat appeared. It had one horn in the middle of its head. It defeated the ram. Then its horn was broken and replaced by 4 horns that faced in four directions.
The Little Horn
Out of the 4 horns came a little horn that became great. It grew in several directions, including to the glorious land, Israel. It became as great as the Prince of the host. It took away the burn offering and overthrew the sanctuary. Verse 12 says this was done because of transgression.
A holy one, who was watching this vision with Daniel, asked how long would this time be where the sanctuary is desolated and the offering removed. The answer was given by another holy one: 2,300 days until the sanctuary would be restored.
Daniel did not understand the vision and asked about it. This time, Daniel is told not just the ultimate meaning, but specific details. He received this information from none other than the angel Gabriel.
Gabriel must be impressive in appearance, for Daniel saw him and fell into a deep sleep. Gabriel’s name means “mighty one of God”, also leading us to believe he was impressive in appearance.
Here are the things Gabriel explains.
the vision is for the time of the end. (17) He did not, however, say the end of what. I do not think it means the end of time, but the end of the time of Antiochus IV, who persecuted the Jews. Gabriel said he would make known to Daniel what would happen toward the end of the “indignation”. I think the indignation (wrath in the NIV) refers to the time of suffering.
The ram with 2 horns is the kingdom of the Medes and Persians The Medes came first, but the Persians took over the kingdom in 550 B.C.
The goat is the kingdom of Greece. (21) The great horn between the goat’s eyes is the first king. We know this to be Alexander the Great. The great horn was broken. Alexander died young in 323 B.C. He conquered the Mediterranean basin on both sides, the Middle East and all the way to the border of India. He reached as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan (in modern terms).
The 4 horns that came from the great horn, were the 4 kingdoms that arose from Alexander’s kingdom. It was split into 4 parts, but none of the kings had Alexander’s power. These kings had been Alexander’s generals.
The little horn grew great. This represents Antiochus IV, Epiphanies, who ruled what is called the Seleucid kingdom, from 175 B.C. to 164 B.C. I do not think this is the same as the little horn in chapter 7, since this is in the Greek period and the one in chapter 7 was in the Roman period.
Antiochus tried to force the Jews to become Greeks and give up the worship of Yahweh. Antiochus thought he was the incarnation of Zeus, so he took the name Epiphanies. He seemed to take on even God, the Price of princes. So we see that behind Antiochus is the power of Satan. He threw some of the hosts and some of the stars to the ground and trampled on them. (10) There is a battle between God and Satan that occurs along with the battles on earth. Ephesians 5:10-12 makes this clear. This will be shown more in chapter 10. God may allow Satan to prevail for a while to accomplish his own purposes, but will prevail.
The Jews revolted at one point. Antiochus ordered that all worship Zeus as supreme God and sent his army to enforce the law. He destroyed Jerusalem, dedicated the temple to the worship of Zeus, made offerings on the alter that were defiling, outlawed the Sabbath and the feasts and killed the resisters. He destroyed copies of the Scriptures, throwing truth to the ground. You can read about this in the First and Second Book of Maccabees.
The Jews revolted again under the Maccabees and restored the temple in 164 B.C. Zechariah 9:13 says “For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wiled you like a warrior’s sword.”
The little horn would kill many and he would oppose God. He is a type of the Antichrist. John used this same imagery for the dragon in Revelation 12. But he would be broken by God (no human hand). (25)
Gabriel did not explain the 2,300 evenings and mornings that the temple and the Israelites would be “trampled underfoot”. So any attempted interpretation is speculation. If it simply means days, It is hard to calculate the days into a time period that reflects the whole time of Antiochus’ reign, but God may have had specific events in minds from which to count. But it does show God has a specific time table for this period of suffering as he did for the exile of 70 years.
Daniel is told to seal up the vision because it referred to many days in the future from Daniel. (26) It had to be sealed to protect it.
Basically, God showed Daniel that, as he had destroyed Jerusalem through the Babylonians for their transgressions, he would do a similar thing again with Antiochus. Remember Gabriel said this was done “because of transgressions”. Some would say the transgression is that of the little horn, but it seems to be that the transgression is by Israel because it suffers for its transgressions and the horn does not. God would not turn over the city and the temple to destruction other than for the sin of Israel. This is the ultimate curse for disobedience in Deuteronomy 28. Additionally, Daniel 9 will include a prayer of repentance. And even further, this vision parallels that of Ezekiel in almost every instance, and Ezekiel’s vision foretold the destruction of Jerusalem as a result of its sin.
Daniel was overcome and sick after the vision. He understood it meant a long period of suffering and persecution for his people. It also mean his people would again become apostate and subject to God’s wrath. It had to be extra sad since he had seen the coming of the kingdom of God in chapter 7, but now saw that much suffering would occur before that time.
The question for many believers throughout time has been, how do we cope with suffering and persecution while waiting for the Lord’s deliverance? We see in this chapter kingdoms that looked invincible. They were powerful and crushed all who opposed them, even the people of God, Israel. Yet, the Lord God directed their actions, their rise to power and their fall, as it suited his purposes.
And God does the same in your life. All of the monsters you face, your problems, are subject to him just as the powerful kingdoms are. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:28-29)