Robert Duncan Culver


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Dr. Robert Duncan Culver

VIII.            Chapter Eight: A Ram, a Goat, and a Little Horn

A.     Introduction

One who becomes acquainted with the whole Bible will discover a great deal of repetition therein. If he is a thoughtful person, seeking to learn the will of God in everything, he will react in a positive manner to the repetition. Mothers, in order to teach their children, have a way of repeating small but important matters. God also, for didactic purposes, repeats his message in the Word. The en­tire history of the Old Testament is covered twice in the Old Testament: once in Genesis through II Kings, a second time in the books of Chron­icles. The life of Christ is presented four times in the four Gos­pels. The prophets of the Old Testament repeat one another in their predictions, too. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel present similar oracles against several of the nations round about them and the downfall of Assyria is predicted many times in Isaiah alone.

Yet none of the repetitions is an identical repetition. Each presentation is from a different point of view; new details are added; new emphases are made. Those who have read the four Gospels carefully are made well-aware of this.

Chapter eight of Daniel is a third prophetic discussion of two of the four great kingdoms of the Gentiles: the second (Persian) and the third (Greek). The breasts and arms of the image prophecy of chapter four, the second beast (a bear) of chapter seven, and now the two-horned ram of chapter eight are all figures of the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. The belly and thighs of the image, the four-headed leopard of chapter seven, and the one-horned buck goat of the present study are figures of the coming kingdom of Greece, under Alexander.

Chapter eight, however, reminds the student of an important fact about the whole Bible—that it presents the story of the prep­aration for and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who said that the Seed of the woman would crush the serpent's head[447] laid the real foundation of Old Testament and New Testament interpretation at Genesis 12:1-3 when he said to Abraham, "I will make of thee a great nation…and in thee shall all the families of the earth be bles­sed." The Bible thenceforth is the story of Abraham, that is, of his family. At the time Daniel wrote that family was in dispersion among the nations. Shortly, a representative group was to return to their God-given country to restore their commonwealth, in vassalage to the Persian king, Cyrus. In another two centuries their overlord would change, that is, the Grecian kings would take the place of the Persian kings. In the period of their submission to the Grecian kings a sad crisis of affliction would arise. This affliction, involving conflict with a hateful, devilish, Grecian king was to be a kind of miniature of a final conflict of Israel with Antichrist in the last days. It is to inform His people against the day of this conflict with the Grecian king that the chapter is directed. We, in this age, look over the shoulder of God's people Israel, as it were, to observe what God said would come to them. Then we will look also at what historians tell us really happened. Our historical sources will be mainly certain books of the Apocrypha—chiefly I Maccabees—and the writings of the first century historian, Josephus.

The Christian has a unique opportunity herein to study a bit of New Testament backgrounds in the inter-testamental period. The state of affairs revealed on the face of the gospel records at the time our Lord was born is not that of the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the book of Malachi—the latest Old Testament books. It is a situa­tion which developed in the four hundred years following cessation of the voice of prophecy, when there were no proper persons to provide authentic inspired Scripture. That is why we must go to the predic­tions of Scripture about those "silent centuries" and to non-Scriptural sources (the Apocrypha, and other histories). As an outstanding example of the illumination therein for New Testament understanding is the fact that the origin of the "feast of Dedication" [448] lies in the in­ter-testamental history predicted in this eighth chapter of Daniel.

Furthermore, the faithful watch-care of the Father God over his ancient people Israel is no less than his faithful care of his people today. Faith will be immeasurably strengthened by understanding these things. And, since the chapter provides a prediction by way of type of sufferings of believers under Antichrist yet to come, it could be of utmost pertinence. It all depends on the manner in which God may choose to answer the Psalmist's question, "How long?" and when He may choose to answer the church's prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

B.      The Historical Introduction (8:1)

In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. (Daniel 8:1)

The third year of Belshazzar, according to evidences now available, would likely have been about 551 R.C. A vision had come to Daniel two years earlier, the vision of the four beasts and the Ancient of Days.[449] Considering the fact that this would have been some years before the sacrilegious feast of Belshazzar and the end of the Babylonian kingdom (539 B.C.) it may account for Daniel's eclipse as a royal advisor during Belshazzar's reign, for no monarch would likely care to exalt the man who was prophesying his own doom. On the other hand, it may be that Daniel waited for some time to publish his record of the vision. We may suppose, however, that he made an immediate record of it as he had of the earlier vision.[450]

Many of the prophetic oracles of the Old Testament are carefully dated in relation to the reigns of the prevailing kings. Some are not. A careful examination of the historical background suggested by the date will usually uncover something significant for interpretation of the oracle so dated. In this case the date, more than ten years before the end of the seventy years of servitude to Babylon,[451] was one when the people of Israel would have been needing encouragement to hope for restoration to their land. It was information which Daniel might have hopefully shared privately with his people to give them cheer.

C.      The Visions (8:2-14)  

1.      The scene of his visions (8:2)

And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai. (Daniel 8:2)

There has been a good bit of discussion whether Daniel was in Shushan in vision, transported there in spirit only, or if he was literally there on business of the king[452] and while there had the vision. The best-known parallels to transportation “in the spirit" are those of Ezekiel, who travelled from Mesopotamia to Palestine “in the spirit”[453] and of Paul, taken to the “third heaven”.[454] Jeremiah may be cited as an example of a prophet who literally in the flesh, made a long trip to carry out symbolical prophetic activities,[455] though there are interpreters who think that Jeremiah's trip also was "in the spirit." As far as Daniel's experience is concerned, the language of verse 2 seems clearly to state that it was not in the flesh but only in the vision he was in Shushan. A literal translation clarifies this even further viz. "And I saw and it came to pass as I saw, that I was in Shushan…."

Elam at various times was an independent nation. At the time of the prophecy it was subject to Babylon. At the time of the Persian Empire, predicted by the vision, it was a province of the Empire, and its capital city, Shushan, usually spelled Susa, was one of several capitals of the Empire. Susa was not an important place in the third year of Belshazzar, but this city, only 250 miles due east of Babylon, became the Persian capital nearest to Babylon in a few short years. This appears to be why the scene of the vision is that place.

"The palace," then would not have been a Babylonian structure but a Persian one, perhaps not yet in literal existence at the time Daniel saw it, like the New Jerusalem of John's Patmos vision.[456] The word may also be rendered "fortress," but since palaces and castles of kings in ancient times were forts as well, either translation is correct. The same ambiguity exists in words for palace, castle, and fort in several modern European languages.

Josephus is the source of an interesting story about Daniel. After his deliverance from the fiery furnace, so he, Daniel built a fortress in Ecbatana of Media which lies about 300 miles E. NE. of Babylon. Josephus claims that in his own time the building was still being used as a mausoleum for the kings of Media, Persia, and Parthia. If this report is factual, then Daniel evidently believed his own prophecy, and wanted a residence in a capital (for so Ecbatana was) of the coming Persian Empire.[457]

Travelers of the nineteenth century have given extensive descriptions of the ruined site of Susa. The remains may still be seen, if identification be correct, scattered for ten or twelve miles. Among these is a place known locally as Daniel's tomb. A hundred years ago it was observed that:

"It is a small building, but sufficient to shelter some dervishes [members of a Mohammedan religious order] who watch the remains of the prophet, and are supported by the alms of pious pilgrims…. The dervishes are now the only inhabitants of Susa; and every species of wild beast roams at large over the spot on which some of the proudest palaces ever raised by human art once stood".[458]

Several modern excavations have been made at ancient Shushan (Susa), known to the local Arabs now as Shush.

"The palace"—granting that Daniel has reference to the great palace which the Persian kings were to build—was truly magnificent. Xerxes, the Ahasuerus of Esther (486-465 B.C.), was its builder. There Esther would have lived.[459] Covering over 2½  acres, the palace included a magnificent throne-room in which were 36 fluted columns, each 67 feet high, all together supporting a ceiling of the cedars of Lebanon. Capitals on the pillars were formed of

"…the heads and shoulders of oxen, placed back to back. The cornices and friezes on the interior of the room had decorations of colored glazed bricks which were arranged in the form or rosettes, lions, men, and other attractive patterns”.[460]

The archaeological finds from Susa are displayed in the Louvre. It should be added that most of the great events of the book of Esther took place at this palace in Shushan.[461]

One further geographical notice, "by the river of Ulai," calls for some attention. Though this river is not mentioned in Esther, it is mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions relating to Susa. The Greeks (whose spelling of Ulai is fairly close—Eulaeus) report that Alexander sailed down this stream to the Persian Gulf. For many years geographers wondered how Alexander could have done this, for Ulai was usually identified with a canal in the region. About a century ago it was discovered that a now extinct branch of a large river flowed near Shushan. It was likely on this river branch that Daniel was situated in his vision.

These data provide further evidence that Daniel was written by the man whose name the book bears, at the time he, himself, claims, not as certain irreverent critics claim, by a Palestinian Jew of the second century B. C.

2.      The vision of a ram (8:3, 4)

Then I lifted up mine eyes and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high but one was higher than the other and the higher came up last. (Daniel 8:3)

The Hebrew word for ram, ‘ăyĭl,is derived from a verb which means to be in front. In both domestic and wild state a flock of sheep moves with the strongest male in front. So the word was a natural term for human leaders and kings.

It is not necessary that there be any historic connection between the symbols used in the vision and the countries involved. As in chapter seven the horns stand both for kings and kingdoms. Here the duality of the Medo-Persian dominion is indicated by the two horns. Their union is indicated by the ram itself. The fact that the older power, the Median, had been superseded by the younger, the Persian, is indicated by the fact that though the shorter horn, it had appeared earlier than the other. The Medians are mentioned with great frequency in ancient records. They came to special international note by joining with the Babylonians under Nabopolassar, first king of the Neo-Babylon­ian Empire, in 612 B. C. to destroy the Assyrian power at Nineveh.

Herodotus reports tales about Cyrus to the effect that he was of mixed Median and Persian ancestry, and has a fascinating story about his being reared in Persia incognito. Whatever his manner, of origin, it was under Cyrus' leadership that the Persians became masters of the Medes in the coalition. Cyrus had been a subject king under the authority of the Median king, Astyages. In his province of Persia he improved his opportunities and consolidated his forces. The capital he built at Pasargadae, about 25 miles northeast of Persepolis, the older capital, was a great palace-fortress still impressive today after passage of 2500 years. In 553 B. C. he rebelled and in became master of the Medes and Persians when the Medes betrayed their king into his hands. He then took over Ecbatana, the Median capital city. It is this bit of ancient history that Daniel prophesied in the verse before us.

And I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but did according to his will, and became great. (Daniel 8:4)

Northward. The Hebrew word "northward" [462] simply means "the unknown." Perhaps the cold winds and fierce peoples who seemed always to come from that way inspired a fear of northern parts, then as now.

Most of two books of Herodotus' Histories is devoted to the narrative summarized in this brief prophecy. Some of these conquests took place before Cyrus captured Babylon, some afterward. Some were accomplished by the great Cyrus, some by his son Cambyses. To the north­west (where the first victories came) were chiefly Lydia, and later to the north, the rest of Asia Minor and the Caspian regions. West were Syria and Palestine (after Babylon and Mesopotamia). To the south of Palestine were regions in Africa, of which the most important was Egypt. It is interesting to note the East is not mentioned as a direction of Cyrus’ conquests. Cyrus and his son Cambyses who succeeded him were irresistible. No kingdom could stand against them. Indeed they did what they willed and that quite despotically. Their Empire became the richest of all empires of antiquity. By means of those riches, in later decades, they bought the submission of the several Greek states in Asia minor and about the Aegean Sea and the subversion of others. No important set-back took place until a determined little army of Athenians under Miltiades defeated Darius at Marathon in central Greece and sent him packing home (499 B.C.). When ten years later the vainglorious Xerxes came with both an army and a navy, the Greeks whipped him at sea in a naval battle at Salamis in the Gulf of Aegina (near Athens). Naval warfare was the Greek major forte. Xerxes should have known better than to try. The famous little band of Spartans, led by Themistocles, at the same time held off the might of Persia at the pass of Thermopylae long enough to prevent their mastery of Greece.

But the ram did "become great." The whole world still remembers its greatness and tries to imitate it. The oriental splendor of later Muslim-Arab and Muslim-Turkish courts was in imitation of the Persian court manners and traditions. Perhaps the same may be said of the Byzantine court.

3.      The Vision of the he goat (8:5)

…as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. (Daniel 8:5)

The Hebrew words for directions were all graphic. That for the west, though frequently simply "the sea” [463] from the fact the Med1terranean Sea was the western border of Palestine, is here mă-arabh, a very strange word indeed. It is derived from the word ‘erebh for evening which was in turn from a verb meaning to enter. Since the sun enters night in the west the idea of "entering-of-the-sun" is the meaning of this word for west.

By now everyone will have observed that both the animals of this chapter are largely domestic animals. They are far different from the voracious hear, standing for Persia, and the fierce swift leopard for Greece of chapter seven. The change is likely due to the fact that in chapter seven the nations are chiefly represented in their relations one to another, in that they were ravenous, seeking to devour one another. Here, their relationship to and treatment of Israel is chiefly in view. And, though firm lord and in secure control of Israel, Cyrus and his successors were kind to the Jews. Isaiah even called Cyrus the Lord’s “anointed”.[464] It was he who allowed the Jews to return and who bountifully provided materials for their aid. Alexander, as we shall see, was likewise kind to the Jews, even doing religious obeisance (according to Josephus) to God’s high priest. This seems to be why the two beasts are tame domestic animals. The treatment given the Jews by the wicked Antiochus (to be discussed later) was quite ex­ceptional.

The typical use of sheep and goats in general and of the males of the two species in particular, is an interesting Scriptural study. Israel is frequently called God's flock (both sheep and goats) and their leaders rams and bucks. Says God;[465] "I will judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats." Here rams and bucks are the princes. Zechariah 10:3 pictures the sheep as being oppressed by the goats. It is quite a surprise to find that when Isaiah says of the fall of the king of Babylon that all the kings and princes who have died before him shall rise to meet him,[466] that the Hebrew word for "chief ones" is the usual word for "he goats." So, it was obviously a common thing to compare kings and princes to rams and bucks.

The buck of the goats was thought of, as he is in nature, as being superior in strength to the ram. So here is confirmation of the meaning of the image vision of chapter two and the four-beast vision of chapter seven: while the kingdoms may decrease in worth and the kings base their rule on a poorer grade of sovereignty, the kingdoms are nevertheless stronger as they progress toward their destruction at the coming of Messiah’s kingdom.

Now, focusing attention on the he goat, observe that he comes "from the west." Macedonia was across the Hellespont, the narrow space of water separating Asia from Europe. When Alexander took his armies across that stretch of water he changed the course of history for the following two and one-half millenniums, and perhaps forever, for at that time, first in recorded history, the center of world dominion shifted from the Orient to the Occident. The East had been supreme before—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medes and Persians were all, of the East. Alexander was of the West. Never again did the balance of world power shift to the East. The advancing civilization of the world from that day to this has been the civilization of the West. Now the East is adopting Western ways, monetary systems, systems of measurement, dress, government, etc. Japan, for example, though still an officially pagan country, has adopted Western customs (even Santa Claus) at a rate that is startling. The same is true everywhere.

The goat came "on the face of the whole earth," i.e., he swept all before him, and since he "touched not the ground" it is understood that he came most swiftly.[467] The most notable feature of the goat is his single horn, representing as we are later told, the first great king, Alexan­der. A brief summary of Alexander's earlier conquests is an interesting commentary on this verse. He crossed the Hellespont to challenge the hated Persians in 334 B. C. With his army of 35,000 men he soon en­countered the armies of Darius III at the Granicus River in northwest Asia Minor, putting the whole massive collection to rout. Persian armies moved in style with special clothes for each kind of soldier. There were bowmen, spearmen, cavalry of horse, cavalry of elephants, etc. Alexander’s army, superbly organized and equipped by his father Philip employed what was known as the phalanx—infantry formed in close and deep ranks with shields joined together and spears overlap­ping. The Persian forces simply were carved in pieces. The Greeks cut them up like a piece of pie. Alexander sent 300 suits of Persian armor back to Athens as a votive offering to Athena.

All of Asia Minor was Alexander's in a few months. Next spring he passed through the Taurus Mountains in southern Asian Minor, at the Cilician Gates, and shortly thereafter engaged the Persian armies at Issus near Antioch. This time Darius arrived in great style with a massive army and with his family and court in attendance, intending to recover lost prestige. His huge army of 600,000 was decisively de­feated—the king's mother, queen, and children being captured. Darius himself escaped and returned to Susa to raise another army for the final encounter now sure to come.

But Alexander was taking "all the earth" as he came, so he turn­ed southward, intending to take all of Syria and Egypt before turning eastward again. The capture of Tyre detained him seven months. It was two years before he gave further attention to Darius.

Josephus tells an interesting story of his relations with the Jews as he passed through Palestine. When Alexander sent from Tyre, demanding the tribute formerly sent to Persia, the Jews refused politely, saying they had given their word to the Persian king. Shortly afterward when on his march from Tyre toward Egypt, Alexander angrily approached the city, the inhabitants feared the worst. So impressed was Alexander when the whole city, including the priests in holy array, went out to meet him that instead of destroying them, he did obeisance to the high priest, saying he had several years before been directed to his conquests by a man in a vision who appeared in the very dress of the Jewish high priest. He was conducted to the temple, says Josephus, where he offered sacrifice to God according to the priests' direction. "And," says Josephus, "when the Book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended." Truth or fiction, this anecdote, shows what the ancient Jews thought of Daniel's prophecy. I, myself, am much inclined to think that the story is essentially a true one.

4.      The victory of the he goat over the ram (8:7)

And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. (Daniel 8:7)

After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander, the he goat did, indeed, "come close unto the ram." Near the ancient city of Nineveh, on the plain of Arbela, the Macedonians met Darius and his immense army. This was the third meeting of the Greeks with the Persian army of Darius, the second, with the Emperor himself in command. The army of Darius was hopelessly defeated and he himself was assassinated on the field by Bessus, satrap of Bactria. Alexander, with characteristic impulsive generosity, avenged Darius of his murderer and had him buried with regal pomp. He moved on and after taking Susa, where he seized an estimated $57,000,000 worth in gold, "moved with choler [anger]" against the an­cient Persian capital of Persepolis (Persian, Parsa) he utterly destroyed the city and the neighboring Ecbatana which was likewise burned. Historians are glad Alexander burned Persepolis, for the fires in the public buildings served to vitrify the many clay writing tablets, and thus preserve them to be read in recent years.

5.      The vision of the final growth and division of the "notable" horn's dominion (8:8)

Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. (Daniel 8:8)

After the destruction of the last Persian resistance (331 B, C.), Alexander continued his conquests eastward, conquering the territories we now know as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, marrying a cap­tive Bactrian princess, Roxana, along the way. As a sample of be­havior indicating the kind of man he was, at Sogdiana in a drunken brawl he killed his best friend, Clitus, the man who had saved his life at the Granicus, and then almost died of remorse over it. Finally, when his army refused to proceed farther (he wanted to go to the Ganges), with much grief he sailed down the Indus river, at the western edge of India, and then moved part of his forces by land, part by sea, back toward the west, finally setting up headquarters at Babylon. There in the thirteenth year of his reign and in the thirty-third year of his life (323 B. C.) the little genius died, the victim of fever and alco­hol.[468] Thus it was that "the great horn was broken."

Though he had intended that his child by Roxana should have his throne, it was not to be. Instead, after about 20 years of interna­tional brawling and quarrelling among Alexander's leading supporters, his lands were divided among "four notable ones," just as Daniel had said.[469]

Only two of the four new Grecian kingdoms are of special interest here: that of Egypt and adjacent lands under Ptolemy, and that of Syria and environs, under Seleucus. These two kings and their suc­cessors become the kings of the South and of the North respectively in Daniel, and out of the king of the North came the "little horn," which now occupies the center of the prophet's interest.

6.      The vision of the "little horn" and his conflict with Israel (8:9-14)

This is the heart of the prophecy, for it prepared the people of Israel with knowledge of some of the very details of coming sufferings in the second century before Christ.

And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, toward the pleasant land. (Daniel 8:9)

The common Hebrew word for south was one meaning "the dry place." The dry part of Palestine was that toward the Sinai Peninsula. Sinai Peninsula was itself a very arid land. So for people living in Pales­tine "dry place" became the name for the southerly direction. The word for east was one meaning "the place of rising," an obvious allusion to the fact that the sun always rises in that direction.

Commentators of all shades of opinion generally agree on the identity of this new king. He is Antiochus IV, called Epiphanes (Magnificent) a king in the line of Seleucus, reigning in Syria about 175-169 B.C. The student should be very careful to distinguish this little horn out of the third or Grecian kingdom from the little horn of chapter seven: which is out of the fourth or "Roman" kingdom. Although it may be true, as we shall see, that Antiochus was a type of the final Antichrist symbolized by the little horn of chapter seven, the two are not identical.

The verse simply indicates that Antiochus would try to expand his holdings toward the south (Egypt) and toward the east (Mesopotamia, etc.). It also indicates that he would have interests in Palestine. Palestine is indicated as "the pleasant land." The word "land" is not in the Hebrew, and the word "pleasant" might better be "beautiful" or "glorious." This was the "land flowing with milk and honey" and of Jerusalem, "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth".[470] Only a Jew could have written this chapter. It truly reflects the "home-town" point of view.

And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. (Daniel 8:10)

Now obviously Antiochus did not destroy or cast down any literal stars of heaven, nor did he conquer any angels of God's host.[471] So the great majority of commentators interpret this verse as a prediction of Antiochus' attack upon the people of God in Judah, and especially upon the high priest and other legal priests. It is not uncommon in the Bible for people and their leaders to be called sun, moon, stars, etc.[472] Similar language is used of Antiochus at II Maccabees 9:10 and context. Antiochus did ruthlessly “stamp” upon God’s people. The ambitions student should read I and II Maccabees to appreciate what he did.

Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. (Daniel 8:11)

Whether the “prince of the host” be God or the high priest, his earthly representative of the time, the meaning is clear. Antiochus was to attack the Jewish worship, and bring to an end the ritual worship centered there. The full story is told in I Maccabees 1:20-50. Since many of the readers of this treatment will not have access to the Apocrypha, the significant portions are here excerpted.

According to this report Antiochus "entered the sanctuary, And took away the golden altar, and the candlestick, and all the vessels thereof; and the table of shew-bread, the pouring vessels…and strip­ped the temple of the ornaments of gold." Two years later he again "smote it very sore, and destroyed much people of Israel, and when he had taken the spoils of the city he set it on fire, and pulled down the walls thereof on every side." In addition to this "Her [Jerusalem’s] sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness, her feasts were turned into mourning, her Sabbaths into reproach, her honor into contempt."

He outlawed all worship of Jehovah in the city and polluted and defiled everything in connection with the sanctuary. "For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, that they should follow the strange laws of the land [i.e., new laws commanding worship of Greek gods and goddesses and vile pagan rites], and forbid burnt-offerings, and sacrifices, and drink-offerings in the temple; and that they should profane the Sabbaths and festival days; and pollute the sanctuary and holy people; set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine's flesh, and unclean beasts; that they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation; to the end they might forget the laws and change the ordinances.”

It is beyond words that very many Jews cooperated with Antiochus, and except for the single-minded determined resistance or a godly few who risked their lives to oppose him, he would have succeeded.

And an host was given him against the daily sacri­fice by reason of transgression, and it cast down truth to the ground; and it practiced, and prospered. (Daniel 8:12)

This means that because of the sins of the Jews in Palestine, they who were the very descendents of the redoubtable exiles who returned under Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, etc. who became apostate, God allowed this sad thing to happen. The worst of it was, as is always the case with religious apostasy, the "truth" is "cast down to the ground" also.

Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trod­den under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleaned. (Daniel 8:13, 14)

Change the word "saint" to "holy one" (i.e., an angel) and the words "two thousand and three hundred days" to "two thousand and three hundred evening-mornings." The "evening-mornings" were of course the morning and evening burnt-offerings prescribed in Leviticus. This would be only 1,150 days, somewhat over three years. It is true that the temple was desolate for a period about that long after Antiochus deso­lated it and until the Maccabeean forces restored the worship. No exact correlation with known historical events has yet been found for this, by reason of the fact that our information is incomplete. [473]

7.      Gabriel, the revealing angel (8:15-16)

This is the first time in Scripture that the name of an angel is given—Gabriel. The name means "hero of God." Mentioned also at Daniel 9:21 as well as Luke 1:19, 26 he is associated with Michael.[474] Review notes on Daniel 7:16 for further information about Gabriel.

8.      The effect of the vision on Daniel (8:17, 18)

That such a man of well recognized holiness as Daniel should be "afraid" fall upon his face at the approach of the angel demonstrates something of the moral gulf that separates God and his holy angels from mere mortals. In fact, every time a similar approach to man is made, the results are the same.[475] It is with good reason that men fear death on such occasions (Exodus 33:20, Judges 13:22 "we shall surely die because we have seen God"). Imagine with what immense relief Daniel heard Gabriel's reassuring words and felt his touch.

Incidentally, this passage demonstrates some basic similarity between the normal visible form of angels and the form of men.

9.      The scope of the prophecy (8:19)

By "scope" I have in mind the times during which the predictions would be fulfilled. It would seem obvious from the standpoint of today that all was fulfilled during the times of the ancient Persians and Greeks. But is this strictly true? In 8:19 Gabriel says, "I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be." In Dan. 11:36 "the indignation" is a period of divine wrath at the close of this present age. And while "the end" could be the end of Antiochus' dominion or of the trials connected with him, yet it also frequently has eschatological connections. This is the first suggestion that perhaps the vision relates not only to Antiochus and persecutions of Jews in ancient times, but also to something in the "last days." If so, this is not an unusual feature of prophecy, which quite frequently contains elements of the near future together with the more remote future in a comprehensive grasp.

10.  Medo-Persia, Greece, Alexander, and his successors (8:20-22)

The interpretation of these verses has already been presented in connection with the earlier verses on the same subjects.

11.  "…the king of fierce countenance" (8:23-26)

These words interpret the vision of the little horn with the addition of several details not furnished in the vision. It is obviously the main point of the revelation. [476]

This "king of fierce countenance" will come in "the latter time of their kingdom," that is, of the Grecian kingdom, when Jewish "trans­gressors" have come to the full. This king shall understand "dark sen­tences," i.e., riddles, conundrums, difficult matters. Be shall successfully attack the holy people, gaining power over them by trickery and diplomacy. But when he stands up against the Prince of princes he shall be destroyed by divine judgment.

As the stone cut out of a mountain without hands [477] represented the divine origin of the stone kingdom of Messiah, so the breaking of a man "without hand" here (8:25) designates a divine visitation of judgment. This really happened to Antiochus. He left his capital in Syria for Persia, hoping to gain booty and tribute there, and committed his wars in Palestine to a certain Lysias. Repulsed in the East, Antiochus was forced to retire to Babylon. At the same time Lysias and his armies were driven out of Judah by the embattled army of the Maccabees which also retrieved not only much of their own stolen goods from him but that of other lands. Says the Maccabeean writer: "Now when the king heard these words, he was astonished and sore moved: whereupon he laid him down upon his bed, and fell sick for grief, be­cause it had not befallen him as he looked for. And there he continued many days: for his grief was ever more and more." Then calling his friends to tell them he knew he was to die, he said, "I remember the evils that I did at Jerusalem…I perceive therefore for this cause these troubles…I perish…So king Antiochus died”.[478]

Now there are commentators of strong evangelical loyalty who think that this was entirely fulfilled in Antiochus. There are others of no less scholarship and evangelical commitment who feel that Antiochus only partially fulfills it, that there is in the section much which refers to none other than the final Antichrist, or some person associated with him. They point out the several expressions which are difficult to apply to Antiochus. He was not noted as a particularly wise man in handling the "dark sentences".[479]   True he was a tricky diplomat, but good diplomacy is another matter. That his mighty power would be “not by his own power” sounds strangely like the declara­tion of John concerning the great beast of the end-time that "the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority".[480] It is not evidently applicable to Antiochus. The "Prince of princes" sounds like too much exaggerated language to apply solely to the ancient high priest; but more appropriate for the "great high priest," the Son of God. While not incapable of application to ancient happenings, the expressions "last end of the indignation" and "the end"[481] as well "when the transgressors are come to the full"[482] seem more appropriate when applied to the situation at the end of this age at the time of our Lord's second coming.[483] The same is true of "it shall be for many day".[484]

It is not at all unusual, as we have observed, to discover a union of the near view and the far in one prophecy. In his last great discourse on predictive matters, the Olivet discourse,[485] Jesus mixed together prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem and of his second coming in such a way that many sentences seem equally applicable to either series of events. So, it should not be considered surprising if such should also be the case here. The description of Antiochus here is more than a little like predictions of Antichrist elsewhere in the Bible. A line of interpreters throughout the generations since the prophecy was written follow this line of interpretation.

D.      The Historical Conclusion (8:27)

Daniel was "done in," as a more literal translation would state in quite modern-sounding phraseology. After being laid aside for a while he went back to his work, evidently still pondering the meaning of what he wrote.[486]

The events in Judah during the days of Antiochus have real ap­plications to the church in the world today.

                     i.            In the first place, it should be noted that Antiochus was only the instrument of affliction. The real source was in the apostasy from their faith and in the other sins of the Jewish people. They had be­come spiritually soft and interested mainly in ease and pleasure. His smooth speech and persuasive flatteries won them over too easily. Numerous elements among them were anxious to secure the popularity and honor he offered if they would conform to the pagan ways he was in­troducing. His was a time of conformity not unlike our own.[487]

                   ii.            Observe further that one of the chief evils for which God al­lowed them this suffering was the secularization of their religion.[488] A Greek-style gymnasium, with its offensive nakedness, was set up in Jerusalem so the youth could learn the pagan ways of Greece. They imitated Grecian styles, and in every way tried to become less Jewish and more Greek. There was greater interest in Greek literature, foreign travel, and Greek philosophy than in study of the ancient Hebrew language and the Holy Scriptures. Some went so far as to deny their circumcision. Even high priests cast aside their Hebrew names for Greek names. These same religious leaders ostracized and op­posed the loyal adherents to the old faith, castigating them as out of date and standing in the way of progresses. Religion became only an in­strument of state, its holy offices to be bought and sold for money.

                  iii.            The most noted apostates came from the official clergy; the leading defenders of the truth, whom the book of Hebrews honors as men "of whom the world was not worthy" and who "obtained a good report through faith",[489] came from the common people, though their leader was a godly priest and his five sons.[490]

                  iv.            The spirit that brought on the "indignation" was what today would have been called a "liberal" or "broad-minded" spirit. It is the spirit that stole from the churches of our land most of its Bible-focused cen­ters of learning in the name of liberal arts several generations ago.

He would be foolish indeed who did not discern the parallels with our own days and feel something of a shiver of fright on account of it!

Nothing is more conducive to these conditions than to hold the forms of religion without warm faith to go with them. "Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word!".[491]

Take another look at the response of Daniel to his visions and the angelic interpretation. He was "done in”—greatly weakened in body by what he saw. He was full of grief that the lessons of their exile would not fully cure them of their spiritual adultery. He knew the grief of concern for the calamities of soul in other people. Can we say we have a similar concern? We should have it.

                   v.            Daniel's response shows that he really believed in his prophecies. And, though he says "none understood it" we may be sure that he knew the general nature of the interpretation, for the Angel made a great deal very plain. This should be somewhat of a guide to the proper attitude toward the study of prophecy today. We cannot understand all of it. We do not know "the day nor the hour" of our Lord's second advent, but we do know that he is coming. We do not have all the problems solved as to the pre­cise order of all the events of the future, but we have been given to know what many of the events will be and we do know something about the order. The prophets of old did not understand quite all that "the Spirit of Christ that was in them did signify" but they did know that the "sufferings of Christ" were to be first, and that the glories were to "follow".[492]

After a period of neglect, reaching back to the early years of the Second World War, when a good bit of shallow prophetic interpretation was rendered out-of-date by the process of history, prophecy deserves a new emphasis and renewed study. It will take more than an ordinary amount of effort and will require more single-mindedness than our gener­ation is accustomed to, but the results will be satisfying.

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