In Daniel 7, Daniel has had a vision of four great beasts coming out of the great sea. Each of these beasts represents world empires ( 7:17 ). These four empires are the same as those found in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in Daniel 2. In chapter 7 we saw that the focus of the vision is upon this fourth beast that is great and terrifying. This fourth beast represents the Roman empire . This kingdom will have the power to persecute the saints of the Most High and will be given into their hand for a time, times, and half a time. We see the fulfillment of these things described in Revelation 13.
Vision of Daniel 8
The ram (8:1-4)
The next vision of Daniel occurs in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar. Therefore, this vision occurs during the days of the power of Babylon . In Daniel’s vision he sees that he is in the capital of Susa , which is over two hundred miles from Babylon . Daniel raises his eyes and sees a ram with two horns standing on the bank of the river Ulai. Daniel focuses upon these two horns, both of which are very high. However, one horn is longer than the other and the higher one comes up last. The ram is charging north, south, and west and no one can stand before him. The ram did as it pleased and became very great.
The goat (8:5-14)
While Daniel is considering the ram, a male goat comes from the west across the whole earth without touching the ground. On this goat is a notable horn between the eyes. The goat comes up to the ram and charges at the ram with furious power. The goat attacks the ram, breaking off both of the ram’s horns. The ram was defenseless, cast to the ground and trampled by the goat. The male goat then grew to be very great but when the goat became strong, the notable horn was broken and in its place four notable horns grew up. From these four notable horns came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, east, and toward the glorious land, which would be the west. It grew up to the host of heaven and cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground and trampled them. Even further, this horn exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host, the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. An army was given to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices and he cast truth down to the ground. Now we see a couple of holy ones speaking and one of them asks how long will these things go on? The answer is given that it would be 2300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.
The Interpretation of the Vision
The time of the vision ( 8:15 -19)
The interpretation of the ram is given in Daniel 8:20. But before that interpretation is given, information about the time frame of the vision is given in Daniel 8:15-19. After this vision takes place, Daniel is seeking the meaning to what he has just seen. Suddenly, one having the appearance of a man stood before him. Daniel then hears a man’s voice say, "Gabriel, make this man understand the vision." So he comes near to explain the vision. But when he comes to Daniel, Daniel is afraid and falls on his face. Gabriel says "Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end." While these words are being said, Daniel is in a deep sleep with his face on the ground. Gabriel touches Daniel and stands him upright. This event is similar to what happened to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:28-2:2. In this passage Ezekiel falls on his face at the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. Someone speaks to him to stand on his feet. "As he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me." The phrase "son of man" is also similar to the designation given in Ezekiel. At least 93 times Ezekiel is called "son of man" by some spiritual being. Here Daniel is called "son of man" by Gabriel. This designation seems to emphasize a differentiation between those who Daniel is speaking to and himself. Daniel is mortal, fleshly, and from the earth and therefore such a statement would make one mindful of their position before the Lord.
We also have an important phrase "time of the end." We are told in verse 17 that the vision refers to the time of the end. We need to understand what this phrase means, for then we will know when these events would take place. Further, this phrase is used four other times later in this book. So we need to define this phrase carefully to be used the many times it is said in the book. Some scholars want this phrase "time of the end" to refer to events that would happen toward the end of time. This is used by premillennialists to teach that the antichrist will rise up and do the things that are stated in this chapter. However, because of the interpretation that we are given by Gabriel in Daniel 8, it is impossible for the time of the end to refer to the end of time. We are going to see that the angel interprets these things to refer to the events of the Grecian empire and powers that would arise after that. We should also notice that the time of the end is also called "the latter time of indignation" or "later in the time of wrath" in verse 19. The reference is not to the end of the world, but it is referring to the end of a nation because of the wrath being stored up against it. It seems that "the time of the end," the "end of the age" in Matthew 24:3, and the "last days" in Hebrews 1:2 all refer the end of the Jewish age. Paul made a similar statement about this time of wrath in 1 Thessalonians 2:16, who in speaking about the Jews said, "forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost." As we will notice as we go through the interpretation of the vision, these are things that are going to lead to the persecution, decline, and ultimately the destruction of the Jewish age.
Interpretation of the ram ( 8:20 )
In verse 20 we are told that the ram having two horns refers to the kings of Media and Persia . We can now go back to the first four verses of this chapter and understand the details to be referring to the Medo-Persian empire. This ram has two horns and one horn came up higher than the other one last. This is a clear history of the Medo-Persian empire. As stated by Daniel, when the Medo-Persian empire conquered Babylon , Darius the Mede was ruling. However, in time the Persian empire became the greater nation within the empire and we read of Cyrus the Persian reigning over the empire. In verse 4 the vision describes the great power that the Medo-Persian empire had. By the ram pushing north, south, and west shows the power and conquering ability the empire had over the nations. Further, this designates the location of the empire to be in the east, as the Medo-Persian empire was. Medo-Persia was the world empire of the time that no one could go up against.
The interpretation of the goat ( 8:21 -22)
In verse 21 we are told that the male goat in the vision refers to the empire of Greece . This would make sense of verse 5 that the male goat comes from the west. Without touching the ground suggests how swiftly the empire would go about conquering the nations. The same point is made about this empire in Daniel 7:6. In verses 6-7 we see the Grecian empire attack the Persian empire with great force and furious power. The goat attacks the ram and casts it down and tramples it so no one can deliver it. This passage depicts the hatred that existed between the Greeks and the Persians. When the Medes and Persians invaded Greece under Darius I and Xerxes I, this caused a rage within Alexander the Great to avenge what Persia had done. The large horn that is seen between the eyes of the goat is identified for us as Greece ‘s first king. This would be none other than Alexander the Great. Now notice the description in verse 8. The male goat grew very strong. But when it grew its strongest, the large horn was broken and in its place four notable horns grew up. This is what happened in history as well. Alexander makes conquests all the way to the border of India , conquering most of the known world. After his conquests were made, he takes a fever and suddenly dies at age 32 and the empire is divided among Alexander’s military leaders. This is the same point made in Daniel 7:6 and I will refer to that lesson for the names of the four rulers and the empires that resulted from these military leaders. This point is verified in verse 22 that four kingdoms would arise out of the nation, but none as strong as the empire that Alexander had ruled.
The interpretation of the little horn ( 8:23 -25)
In verse 23 we find that some time is going to go by in these kingdoms and then a king will arise. Verse 9 tells us that the king will arise out of one of these kingdoms. Verse 23 describes this king as being bold and insolent and a master of sinister schemes. Verse 24 further describes this king as one having great power who will destroy to an extraordinary degree. Further, he will destroy the mighty and the holy people. This description matches the images given to us in verse 10 that he would cast down some of the host and some of the stars. Stars usually represent mighty, powerful peoples. It also suggests a persecution against the Jews of Palestine . Verse 25 gives us more description about this terrible king. He will cause deceit to prosper under his hand and magnify himself in heart and against the Prince of princes. This is also seen in verse 11 that he will exalt himself as high as the Prince of the host. He would set himself up to be God himself. Further, verse 11 tells us that he would take away the daily sacrifices, and the place of the sanctuary would be cast down or brought low. Verse 25 tells us more: that he shall be broken without hands.
So we must ask, who is this king that is represented by the little horn? Scholars pretty much agree that this little horn represents the eighth ruler of the Seleucid Greek Empire, which is Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 B.C.). In many ways he fits the descriptions that are given here. His nephew was the rightful heir to the throne, but Antiochus seized it through bribery and flattery. He made many conquests in the south, east, and in the beautiful land of Palestine . Antiochus severely persecuted the Jews in about 170 B.C. by assassinating Onias III, the high priest. During his reign he executed thousands of Jews. In 167 B.C. Antiochus performed his crowning act of sacrilege against the Jews by erecting an altar to Zeus in the temple and offering swine on it.
Length of time ( 8:26 )
In verse 26 we are told that the vision of evenings and mornings is true. This is a reference to verses 13-14. In those verses we see a holy one asking how long will the vision be concerning all of these things with the little horn who would do all these things against the Jewish people. The answer is 2300 evenings and mornings. There are three ways to understand this passage. The first is to take the number figuratively. Homer Hailey says that this means "the time of the predicted oppression of Israel, and of the desolation of the sanctuary by Antiochus Epiphanes, the little horn, shall not reach the full duration of the a period of divine judgment." Basically, it means that a certain amount of time will pass until all these things are fulfilled. This answer is really not an answer at all and would leave Daniel and all the readers without any information about when these things would be.
The other two ways to understand the 2300 evenings and mornings are as a literal period of time. I believe this is the appropriate way to go because everything in this chapter has corresponded to some clear event in history. Some take the evenings and mornings as a day. Therefore, some say we are speaking about 2300 days. The termination point is very clear in verse 14"then the sanctuary shall be cleansed." That cleansing took place in 164 B.C. Therefore, we would need to count 2300 days back and see if there is something that occurred that was the beginning of these things. This would mean we would be looking in the fall of 170 B.C. As we already mentioned, an important Jewish event did take place in 170 B.C. Onias III the high priest was assassinated. In the following year, Antiochus looted the temple and murdered some of the Jewish people. Therefore, this would be a reasonable understanding.
The other literal view says that it is not 2300 days but 2300 evenings and mornings. God knows how to say days but he did not say that here. He said evenings and mornings. This is a reference to the morning sacrifice and the evening sacrifice that was taken away by Antiochus. Therefore, we are speaking about 1150 days, or 2300 evenings and mornings. With 164 B.C. as the time of the cleansing of the temple, going back 1150 days would be in late 167 B.C. As we also noted earlier, there was an important event in December of 167 B.C. when Antiochus set up a statue to Zeus in the temple and offered swine on it. This seems to me to be the likely answer, however both answers can be correct and are possible.
Daniel’s response ( 8:27 )
After Daniel sees all of these things, he is faint and was sick for days. He is astonished by the vision but no one understood it. This is a very difficult vision he has seen. Even with all of our knowledge of history and the revelation of the New Testament, we still have some difficulties understanding the visions that we read. Daniel is completely perplexed by the things that he has seen. In closing, I would like to offer a suggestion about this text in reference to Revelation. It seems possible, according to the view I presented of Revelation, that chapters 8-9 of Revelation may have these events in view. Remember that in Revelation 8-9 we see a partial judgment pronounced upon the people in order to make them repent of their wickedness. However, they did not repent of their evil deeds. This event of Antiochus Epiphanes as seen by Daniel may be in part or wholly some of the things that took place in an effort to cause the Jews to repent. The persecution, the desolation of the temple, and all these tribulations that we read about were to make the Jews reform. It did not work. Just a thoughtful suggestion, for we have noticed many times the parallels between Daniel and Revelation.