Study Notes

Daniel 8:1-27


As you may recall, the book of Daniel changed from its chronological narrative after chapters six, to relate the visions of prophecy that Daniel experienced. As we begin chapter eight, we are told of the second of these visions.

8:1-2 Susa Beside The Ulai

Two years after Daniel saw the dream and vision of the four beasts arising from the sea, he had another one. But this one took place in a recognizable place: the citadel of Susa (Shoo-SHAN) in Ay-LAWM. Shoo-SHAN was the capitol of the Persian empire, on the river Oo-LAH-ee. Today, the area is known as southwestern Iran.

This was the city where the Persian king's throne was. (The events of the book of Esther take place in Shoo-SHAN, as well as the beginning of the book of Nehemiah.)

Daniel actually saw himself in his vision. His perspective was from the king's palace, and he saw himself outside, standing beside the Oo-LAH-ee Canal. I believe that the NIV Bible has rendered this the opposite way, so he may have been next to the river, seeing himself in the palace. But it really doesn't seem to matter much.

8:3-4 A Ram Butting

In Daniel's vision, he saw a ram in front of the canal. It had two long horns, but the one that grew last was longer than the other. It kept butting to the west, north, and south and defeating any other animals that would be in the way.

What did this mean? Daniel will find out soon that the ram was the Medo-Persian Empire, with the horns representing the kings of Media and Persia.

Historically, the Medo-Persian Empire's main expansion was to the west, north, and south, and it was Persia who arose later, but became greater.

8:5-7 A Goat Defeats The Ram

As Daniel was watching the ram, a goat was coming from the west. It was not touching the ground, and it had a noticeable horn between its eyes.

Daniel will discover that the goat represents the kingdom of Greece. Although Daniel is not told the name of the king represented by the goat's horn, we know historically that it is Alexander the Great.

The goat's movement from the west over the surface of the whole earth represents the Grecian Empire's emergence from Greece and domination over every part of the world they entered. This all happened so fast that the goat is shown to not be touching the ground.

The goat rushed at the ram "in his mighty wrath." Historically, the Medo-Persian Empire had attacked the Greeks. But now came a furious retribution. In just two years (333BC-331BC), the Persians fell to the power of Greece.

8:8 The Goat Magnifies Himself

As soon as the goat, the Grecian Empire, was mighty, its large horn was broken. We know from history that at the young age of 32, Alexander fell into despair at having no more worlds to conquer. He turned to drinking. Late one night, he came home in a rainstorm and fell asleep in his wet clothes. This resulted in him becoming sick and ultimately dying from that sickness.

Four Conspicuous Horns

In his place, four horns arose towards the four winds of heaven. As we covered in our first study of chapter seven, I believe that this refers to the four directions, north, south, east, and west. We know that Alexander's kingdom was divided between four generals from his army.

8:9-12 A Small Horn Grows

Out of one of the four small horns grew a small horn, which got larger and larger in several directions. This speaks of a ruler who arises from one of the four kingdoms established after the death of Alexander the Great.

This part of the prophetic vision points clearly to the man that rose to power in the Seleucus dynasty. His name was Antiochus Epiphanes.

You students of Jewish history know what an infamous name this is. In this vision, the horn grew up to the stars and caused some of the host of heaven - the sun, the moon, and the stars - to fall to the earth, where they were trampled.

In typology, the sun, moon, and stars represent the nation of Israel. Remember Joseph's dream in Genesis 37 of the sun, moon, and eleven stars represented his father Israel, his mother Rachel, and his eleven brothers. Later, in Revelation 12,

Rev. 12:1 ...a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;

We saw that this woman represented the nation of Israel.

The horn that grew up to the host of heaven and trampled the stars speaks of Antiochus Epiphanes' brutal destruction of many of the Jewish people.

The horn's magnification of itself shows Antiochus as a man who exalted himself, even above God, and defiled the Lord's sanctuary.

This of course is referring to Antiochus performing "the Abomination of Desolation," when he desecrated the temple of God.

In the apocryphal book of 1Maccabees, we read,

1Macc. 1:29-32 Two years later the king sent to the cities of Judah a chief collector of tribute, and he came to Jerusalem with a large force. Deceitfully he spoke peaceable words to them, and they believed him; but he suddenly fell upon the city, dealt it a severe blow, and destroyed many people of Israel. He plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. They took captive the women and children, and seized the livestock.

The historian Josephus wrote,

Now Antiochus was not satisfied either with his unexpected taking the city, or with its pillage, or with the great slaughter he had made there; but being overcome with his violent passions, and remembering what he had suffered during the siege, he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the altar; against which they all opposed themselves, and the most approved among them were put to death." (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 1.1.2)

Again, in Maccabees,

1Macc. 1:41-49 Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances.

Antiochus Epiphanes captured Jerusalem, and, determining to make the people of his kingdom one people with one language and one religion, committed terrible atrocities against the Jews and the temple. He had an image of Zeus put in the temple, and then sacrificed a pig on the altar. The blood of the pig was then smeared all over the inside walls of the temple.

This was a man so truly wicked that I believe he is second in evil only to the antichrist in the history of mankind. Look at what is written about him down in verses 24 and 25:

Dan. 8:24-25 "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. And through his shrewdness he will cause deceit to succeed by his influence; And he will magnify {himself} in his heart, and he will destroy many while {they are} at ease. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, but he will be broken without human agency.

I believe that this prophecy of Antiochus Epiphanes shows that he was possessed by a demon, possibly even satan himself. But God would intervene and destroy him without human agency.

How did Antiochus die? Of a horrible, painful, and foul intestinal disease. No man did this - it was the judgment of God.

This is something I would like to point out by way of application and encouragement to us. We do see evil in the world. We do see the wicked prosper. But they are not allowed to continue past their appointed time.

Ps. 37:3-9 Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, {it leads} only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

8:13-14 Holy Ones

At this point, Daniel heard two heavenly beings talking to each other. One asked how long the temple would remain desecrated." The answer was twenty-three hundred days.

2,300 Evenings And Mornings

The defiling of the temple occurred in 171BC. Counting 2,300 days into the future brings us to December 25th, 165BC, the exact day that the temple was cleansed and rededicated. This holiday is celebrated by the Jews each year - its most familiar name is Hannukah. The Bible refers to it as the "Feast of Dedication."

It is interesting to note that Jesus Himself celebrated this holiday. The gospel of John tells us,

John 10:22-23 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.

8:15-19 Gabriel

At this point in Daniel's vision, he sees the angel Gabriel. As you know, Gabriel is also the one who later dispatched to announce the birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias, and the birth of Jesus Christ to the virgin Mary.

8:20-26 The Explanation

Gabriel then explains the vision to Daniel, as we have already covered

8:27 Exhausted And Sick For Days

This revelation physically and mentally took a toll on Daniel. It was days before he was able to get back to work.

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