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Daniel 8:1-27

First, with 8:1 the language of the original text in Daniel shifts back to Hebrew from Aramaic. As noted in our introductory lesson, no one is certain why the book was written in this way. The most frequently heard explanation is that those portions of Daniel dealing more directly with the destiny and experience of Israel (such as chps. 8-12) were written in Hebrew and those dealing with the Gentile nations were written in Aramaic.

Second, the purpose of chp. 8 is to fill in the the details omitted in chps. 2 and 7 relative to the 2nd and 3rd kingdoms (or 3rd and 4th kingdoms if you adopt the 'Greek view = the fourth kingdom is Greece). According to the 'Roman view (= the fourth kingdom is Rome) the only thing we read in Daniel 2 concerning these is: 'And after you (Neb) there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth (2:39). In chp. 7 the explanation of these two kingdoms is only slightly more detailed (7:5-6; or, again, 7:6-8 if you adopt the Greek view). Here in chp. 8, therefore, Daniel provides us with a much more in-depth study of the kingdoms of Medo-Persia and Greece (you will observe that whereas he still employs animals in his imagery, he now uses a ram and goat).

Note well: one's interpretation of the fourth kingdom, whether it be Rome or Greece, has no bearing on the interpretation of chp. 8. Everyone acknowledges that this chapter concerns Medo-Persia (the ram) and Greece (the he-goat). Virtually everyone also acknowledges that the 'little horn of chp. 8 is Antiochus Epiphanes, Syrian ruler of the 2nd century b.c. who persecuted the Jews.

Third, we should also remember that the visions of chps. 7 and 8 were experienced by Daniel (69 years old in chp. 8) before the events recorded in chp. 5.

Chp. 7 553 b.c. (1st year of Belshazzar)

Chp. 8 551 b.c. (3rd year of Belshazzar)

Chp. 5 539 b.c. (14th and final year of Belshazzar)

A.             Prologue 8:1-2

1.              the time 8:1

2.              the place 8:2

Most likely Daniel 'saw or 'envisioned himself to be in Susa, but was not actually there. Susa was 230 miles east of Babylon, about 120 miles north of the Persian Gulf.

B.             The Vision 8:3-14

1.              the ram 8:3-4

For the ram as a symbol of oppressive rulers, see Ezek. 34:17; 39:18 (cf. Jer. 51:40; Zech. 10:3). The description fits what we know of the relationship between Media and Persia: the former emerged first but was subordinate in its subsequent merger with Persia. Conquests: west (Babylonia, Syria, Asia Minor), north (Armenia, region of Caspian Sea), south (Egypt and Ethiopia). Cf. Isa. 45:1-5.

It is also interesting that in the Zodiac, Persia was under Aries, the ram. Evidence also exists that when Persian kings were on a military march they carred a gold ram's head with them.

2.              the goat 8:5-8

The goat is best taken as representative either of the Macedonian kingdom in the abstract or of the country over which a series of kings would rule. Coming 'from the west points to the position of Greece: to the west of Medo-Perisa and Palestine. The 'conspicuous ('prominent NIV) horn is obviously a reference to Alexander the Great (356-323 b.c.). His conquest of the Medo-Persian empire and all other surrounding enemies is well chronicled. The phrase 'without touching the ground is a reference to the rapidity with which the Greek empire conquered its foes. Indeed, Goldingay notes that 'over a period of four years between 334 and 331 b.c. Alexander quite demolished the Persian empire and established an empire of his own extending from Europe to India (209).

He crossed the Hellespont and joined the Persians in battle at the Granicus River where he soundly defeated them in 334 b.c. He defeated Darius III at Issus in the Taurus mountains. He laid siege to Tyre and eventually occupied all of Egypt. He proceeded east to the Tigris and defeated the Persians in 331 at the battle of Gaugemela. He captured and sacked Shushan, Ecbatana, and Persepolis. His subjugation of Persia was complete.

The 'four conspicuous (prominent) horns (8:8) that arose subsequent to the death of Alexander the Great (June 13, 323 b.c.) point to the four-fold division of the kingdom among his generals: Cassander (Macedonia and Greece), Lysimachus (Thrace and much of Asia Minor), Seleucus (Syria and other regions to the east), and Ptolemy (Egypt).

3.              the little horn 8:9-14

The 'little horn is clearly a reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, eighth ruler in the Seleucid line, 175-164 b.c. (he died in 163). This raises the question of the relationship between the 'little horn of Daniel 7:8,11,19-26 and the 'little horn described here in Daniel 8. According to the view which believes Rome is the fourth kingdom/beast, the 'little horn of Daniel 7 and that of Daniel 8 are different (the latter being AE, the former being the end-of-the-age Antichrist). But according to the view which believes Greece is the fourth kingdom/beast, the two chapters are describing the career and demise of the same person: Antiochus Epiphanes IV.

a.              the nature of his rule 8:9-12

The best description of the rule of AE and his oppression and persecution of the Jews is provided in the apocryphal work of 1 and 2 Maccabees (esp. the former). See the appended material for some relevant portions of those books, esp. the Preface, 1:10-15,20-24,29-35,41-50,54-64 (cf. 2 Macc. 6:1-6 and all of 7); 4:36-59; 6:5-16.

He had conquests in 'the south (Egypt), 'the east (Persia, Parthia, Armenia), and 'the Beautiful Land (Palestine).

In view of the interpretation in v. 24, most likely the reference to the 'stars in v. 10 is a symbolic allusion to the people of God as shining lights or glorious ones. Some contend that only the priesthood is in view. In any case, 'an attack on the Jerusalem temple, the people of Israel, and the priesthood is presupposed to be implicitly an attack on the God worshiped there and on his supernatural associates who identify with Israel [in particular, Michael and his angelic hosts] (Goldingay, 210). AE's persecution of the Jews began in 171 b.c. with the assassination of the high priest Onias III and ended in 163 b.c. with the death of AE himself. The 'prince of v. 11 ('commander in NASB) has been taken as a reference either to Onias or, more likely, God. In 167 b.c. Antiochus ordered that all ceremonial observances to Yahweh were forbidden. The 'place of His sanctuary may refer to Jerusalem, but more like is the temple itself.

The phrase 'on account of transgression (or, 'because of rebellion) in v. 12 has been taken in one of two ways. Some say it refers to the sins of the Jewish people themselves who abandoned God for the ways of their Greek captors and thus incurred divine judgment (cf. 1 Macc. 1:11-15,43). Others insist it refers to the sins committed by AE against the Jews.

b.              the duration of his rule 8:13-14

The 'transgression that causes horror (NASB) or 'the rebellion that causes desolation (NIV) is probably an allusion to AE's blasphemous act of setting up a statue of Zeus in the temple. This is referred to in 11:31 as 'the abomination of desolation.

Before we examine the various theories of the '2300 evenings and mornings(8:14) let's review the chronology of this period.

*          175-164b.c. the rule of AE (he died in 163)

*          175 Onias III, Jewish high priest, is deposed

*          171 Onias is murdered by Menelaus (who had bribed AE in exchange for being made high priest)

*          169 AE attacks Jerusalem, butchers many of its inhabitants, and loots the temple

*          167 December (25 Kislev) AE orders the cessation of all ceremonial observances. The sacrifice of a pig was performed on the altar to Zeus which had been erected on the altar of burnt offering in the temple (this is the 'Abomination of Desolation referred to in Dan. 11:31 and 12:11 and the 'trangression that causes horror in 8:13)

*          164 December (25 Kislev) three years to the day after it had been profaned, Judas Maccabeus, having led a successful revolt against AE, re-dedicated the temple and a new altar of burnt offering.

There are basically four views as to the meaning of the 2,300 days.

1)             Some believe that Daniel is referring to the evening and morning sacrifices which AE will cut off. Hence, the duration is in fact only 1,150 days in each of which two sacrifices were made (one in the morning and one in the evening). The beginning of this 1,150 day period is reckoned as December 167 b.c. when Antiochus set up an altar (and possibly a statue) to Zeus in the temple (1 Macc. 1:54). The termination of this period would be December 14, 164 b.c. (1 Macc. 4:52), when Judas Maccabeus rededicated the temple. However, this doesn't equate to exactly 1,150 days, but closer to 1,100. Advocates of this view suggest that perhaps the date is to be taken as a close approximation or the daily sacrifice may have been abolished even before the altar was erected (i.e., the beginning point would then be sometime in mid October 167).

2)             Those who contend that 2,300 days are meant to point out that when the Hebrews wished to express separately day and night, the component parts of a day of a week, then the number of both is expressed. They say, e.g., forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:4,12; Ex. 24:18; 1 Kings 19:8), and three days and three nights (Jonah 2:1; Matt. 12:40), but not eighty or six days-and-nights, when they wish to speak of forty or three full days. 'A Hebrew reader, says Keil, 'could not possibly understand the period of time 2300 evening-mornings of 2300 half days or 1150 whole days, because evening and morning at the creation constituted not the half but the whole day (304).

Those who embrace this view still face the problem in figuring out how these days fit into the period of history during which AE reigned.

a)             Wood argues that the end or last of the 2300 days must be the restoration of the temple on December 25th, 165 b.c. (8:14b; note that Wood adopts the 165 rather than standard 164 b.c. dating). Reckoning back 2300 days would bring us to September 6th, 171 b.c., but we have no concrete evidence of anything significant happening on that day [although it was in 171 that Onias III was murdered]. Wood nevertheless contends that in the year 171 b.c. the hostility of AE against the Jews began to intensify (see 2 Macc. 4:7-50).

b)             Walvoord has another view: 'The best conclusion is that the twenty-three hundred days of Daniel are fulfilled in the period from 171 b.c. and culminated [in contrast to Wood's view] in the death of Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 b.c. (except that AE died in 163). The period when the sacrifices ceased was the latter part of this longer period. Although the evidence available today does not offer fulfillment to the precise day, the twenty-three hundred days, obviously a round number, is relatively accurate in defining the period when the Jewish religion began to erode under the persecution of Antiochus, and the period as a whole concluded with his death (190).

c)             Says Miller: 'December 164 (the reconsecration of the sanctuary) is the termination date given in the text, thus the 2,300 days began in the fall of 170 b.c. Something significant must have occurred at that time that marked the beginning of the persecution, and such an event did take place. In 170 b.c. Onias III (a former high priest) was murdered at the urging of the wicked high priest Menelaus, whom Antiochus had appointed to that position for a bribe. [But most date the murder of Onias in 171, not 170.]. . . The altar to Zeus was not set up until 167 b.c., but the persecution had been going on long before that event. According to the 2,300-day view, therefore, the whole persecution period (the time that the saints 'will be trampled underfoot') was involved, not just the span from the cessation of the sacrifice and the desecration of the sanctuary until the rededication of the temple. Verse 14 concludes by stating that after this period of persecution, the temple would be 'reconsecrated.' Just over three years after the altar to Zeus was set up, Judas Maccabeus cleansed and rededicated the temple on December 14, 164 b.c. (cf. 1 Macc. 4:52). Today the Jews celebrate the Feast of Hanukkah ('dedication') to commemorate this momentous event (cf. John 8:22) (229-30).

3)             Desmond Ford, along with a host of Seventh-Day Adventist commentators, adopts the year-day principle: thus the 2300 days = 2300 years. Ford begins his reckoning with 457 b.c. (when the Jews returned to rebuild Jerusalem) and brings us to 1844 a.d. 'In 1844 began the cleansing of the sanctuary, the restoration in fullness of the everlasting gospel that the daily services prefigured, the vindicating work of God in heaven above and in the earth beneath (189).

William Miller (1782-1849) has used a similar method of reckoning to conclude that Christ would return some time between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. When the year came and went and Christ did not return, many were discouraged. Samuel S. Snow, one of Miller's followers, concluded that the 2300 days/years would end, not in the spring of 1844, but in the fall. He insisted that Christ would return on Oct. 22, 1844, the calendar equivalent of the Jewish Day of Atonement (the 10th day of the 7th month, Tishri). What resulted has come to be called 'The Great Disappointment when Christ did not return. Later another follower, Hiram Edson, concluded that instead of Jesus coming out of the holy of holies of the heavenly sanctuary to earth at the end of the 2300 days/years, he had simply for the first time passed from the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary into the heavenly holy of holies.

4)             Keil and Young, for example, adopt a more symbolic interpretation.

'But it is on the whole questionable whether the number given by the angel is to be reckoned as an historico-chronological period of time, or is not rather to be interpreted as symbolical. The analogy of the other prophetic numbers speaks decidedly for the symbolical interpretation. The 2300 cannot, it is true, be directly a symbolical number, such as 7, 10, 40, 70, . . . but yet it can stand in such a relation to the number seven as to receive a symbolical meaning. The longer periods of time are usually reckoned not by days, but by weeks, months, or years; if, therefore, as to the question of the duration of the 2300 days, we reduce the days to weeks, months, and years, we shall find six years, three or four months, and some days, and discover that the oppression of the people by the little horn was to continue not fully a period of seven years. But the times of God's visitations, trials, and judgments are so often measured by the number seven, that this number came to bear stamped on it this signification [cf. Dan. 4:13; 7:25; Gen. 29:18,27; 41:26ff.; Judges 6:1; 2 Sam. 24:13; 2 Kings 8:1]. . . . Thus the answer of the angel has this meaning: The time of the predicted oppression of Israel, and of the desolation of the sanctuary by Antiochus . . . shall not reach the full duration of a period of divine judgment (Keil, 306-07).

C.             Interpretation 8:15-26

1.              Gabriel's appearance 8:15-19

The appearance of one who 'looked like a man (v. 15) and spoke to Gabriel is probably a reference to God himself. He is said to have spoken from 'between the banks of the Ulai river, thus perhaps depicting a hovering, as it were, in the air above the middle of the river.

The reference in v. 17 to 'the time of the end and in v. 19 to 'the final period of the indignation and 'the appointed time of the end remind us that we should not too quickly assume that such terminology refers to the end of the age (the second coming of Christ). Here it clearly points to the end of events prophesied in this chapter (i.e., the persecution of the Jews by AE).

2.              Gabriel's interpretation 8:20-26

a.              the ram 8:20

b.              the goat 8:21-26

The 'transgressors or 'rebels in v. 23 again probably refers to those Jews who had rebelled against God (cf. v. 12). The statement in v. 24 that AE will rise to prominence 'not by his own power is an allusion either to God's providential role in putting him in place or a reference to Satan's energizing presence in his oppressive rule. AE certainly did 'magnify himself in his heart (v. 25), as seen in his decree that the coins of the day bear the inscription theos epiphanes = God manifest. Although AE did not actually claim to be God, he did understand himself as the earthly representative of deity. He will be broken 'without human agency (v. 25), probably a reference to his death, not by assassination or in battle, but from grief and remorse after numerous military setbacks. Others say he died of consumption (tuberculosis). Numerous other accounts of his death emerged: he fell from his chariot and later died from internal wounds; he was eaten by worms; etc.

D.            Epilogue 8:27