115-109 Daniel Chapter 8
This chapter speaks of the rise of the Greek Empire. We also see the resulting evil king who persecuted the people of God bringing about a transformation to the true remnant of Israel. It was a time that the wrath of God against Israel came to an end until the Jewish nation rejected the Messiah.
There is a note here that we must attend to about the small horn. The small horn of chapter 7 represents a different entity than the small horn of chapter 8. Both these horns have be identified as Antiochus Epiphanes who was a king of the Greek Empire and savagely persecuted the Israel nation.
The meaning of a small horn is that they are kings that have arisen later. They have come upon the scene after others have preceded them. There can be any number of small horns depending upon which beast they appear. The small horn of chapter 7 and 8 are presented so differently that to identify them would be to lose their reality. What interpreters have failed to say is that Antiochus Epiphanes is the example of the Anti-god to come.
We are now at a time when the Babylonian empire is in a weakening state and a new strong power is arising. First there was the Medes and then the Persians under Cyrus ll who conquered the Medes in 550 BC. Cyrus then conquered Lydia in 547 BC and Babylon in 539 BC. Cyrus then went on to conquer Egypt. Cyrus was followed by Darius in 522 BC. Darius and Xerxes sought to conquer Greece which were made up of several states and was the only area of the world that was unconquered. They had some success but ultimately failed in their conquest.
Then came Philip of Macedon who united the Greeks and was the father of Alexander the Great. (336 BC) Alexander the Great invaded the Persian Empire and delivered the Greeks in Asia. Alexander defeated the main Persian army in 333 BC. Alexander then conquered all of the Mediterranean world and beyond. Alexander died in 323 BC and his weak son was unable to rule the empire, which was divided into four empires. Two of these empress was Seleucids, Babylon and Syria north of Palestine and Ptolemies, Egypt south of Palestine. Both empires maintained their Greek culture.
Ptolemies ruled Palestine for the next hundred years but little interfered in their political and religious affairs until a king named Antiochus III the great. (223-187) Antiochus gave great consideration to the Jews. Meanwhile a sect of the Jews began to flirt with the Greek gods. It was at this time Hannibal, encouraged by Antiochus, advanced into Greece where he came into contact with the mighty Romans. (192 BC) The Romans pushed him back from Greece and pursued him to Asia and completely defeated him. Antiochus III died and his son Seleucus IV (187-175 BC) began to be meddlesome to the Jews in their affairs.
Things took a turn for the worse when the reign of Seleucus IV ended and his brother Epiphanes, (175-163 BC) who had been a hostage in Rome took the throne. Under the threat of Rome and Egypt Epiphanes unified his empire around Hellenistic culture. Therefore, the people began to worship the Greek gods, which Epiphanes declared himself as the manifestation of Zeus. Needing money for his treasury he plundered the temples.
He was a man that the people did not know their standing. He could mingle in their fun and festivities and yet rob their temples. He was known for savage treatment of the people when he thought they were unreasonable.
Dissension among the Jews largely about the ungodly sects that were amongst them meant that they looked to Epiphanes for assistance. This proved to be a huge mistake. Epiphanes sacked Jerusalem and forbade the practice of Judaism. He destroyed the Scriptures and suspended sacrifices, outlawed circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath day. He also ordered the Jews to make sacrifices to the god Zeus.
Epiphanes erected an altar to Zeus in the Jewish Temple and sacrificed a pig, which was an abomination to the Jews. The Jews revolted under the Maccabees and through good generalship, bravery and fortunate circumstances were able to free themselves from Epiphanes.
Daniel make it clear to us that this is a second vision which occurred two years after the first. This vision was not a dream vision but one in which he was fully conscious. He also states that it occurred during the reign of Belshazzar. This is important in that it was during a time of the Babylonian Empire. This confirms the order to the three empires as Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greek.
Daniel tells us his location at the time of this second vision. He is in Susa the fortress city in the province of Elam. It is probable that he was there on a mission for the Babylonians. Daniel is now a retired governor and would be one well suited for this kind of mission. From here Daniel may have been able to see the power of the Medo-Persians and realized that the fall of Babylon would soon come.
Susa was Cyrus’ capital city in the Persian Empire and a huge fortress city. (Ezra 4:9) At this time Elam was a province of either Media or Persia. The Ulai River flowed by Susa and was a canal which joined two other rivers.
Daniel emphasizes that there was but one ram that had two horns and one that was higher than the other. He also tells us that the higher horn came up last. This was a clear description of the Medo-Persian Empire. Cyrus would be the larger horn, as he was over the whole empire, but below him was his ally the Medes. The Medes had earlier been the most powerful. The general that captured Babylon was a Mede.
It is said that the guardian spirit of the Persians was a ram with clean feet and sharp pointed horns. It is also said that when the king stood at the head of his army he carried with him the head of a ram. Ezekiel described the picture of a ram to denote a symbol of leadership. (Ezekiel 34:17) Rams are not considered as wild beast but still their appearance is fearsome.
This vision is of a successful empire builder who conquers in all directions. He is all powerful and undefeatable. He is one who had attained great power and authority. He pushed forward with his horns and magnified himself much as Nebuchadnezzar in 4:30. This may be a hint as to why God brought the Babylonian Empire down as God hates the prideful. However, the Persian Empire was more favorable to the Israelite nation as they wanted to inherit more religions.
In verse 21 we are told that this he-goat is the Greek Empire, which is to the west of the Persian Empire. Greece was well known as a good source for trade. Greece also had very effective mercenaries for foreign armies. They had been known to supply the Egyptian and Persian armies with mercenaries. The whole earth means the area of the Mediterranean and even now stretching into Europe. By not touching the ground shows the speed of their conquest and the horn no doubt points to Alexander the Great.
The quick approach of Alexander and the savageness of his attack on the Persians quickly defeated them. Alexander then overran Syria and Palestine and finally defeated the Persians at the battle of Gaugamela near Nineveh in 331 BC.
Alexander the Great
Alexander III of Macedon (July 356 BC–June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a King of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. Born in Pella in 356 BC, Alexander succeeded his father, Philip II, to the throne at the age of twenty. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, until by the age of thirty he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to Egypt and into northwest India. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history’s most successful military commanders. (Wikipedia)
Alexander the Great because of his overpowering military achievements was highly magnified and achieved a godlike status. At the height of his power he died at the age of 33 years. His death resulted in his kingdom being divided into four empires.
These four empires were ruled by the four generals of Alexander’s military. Two of the generals were prominent in the Mediterranean to the north and the south of Palestine. It is believed that the empire was split with these generals ruling these respected lands. Lysimachus ruled over Thrace and Bithynia and Cassamder ruled Macedonia and Greece. Seleucus controlled Syria and Babylonia and the territories to the east. Ptolemy ruled Egypt, Palestine and Arabia. The uncertainty is caused by the twenty year period that it took to settle these empires.
The four winds is seen by some as meaning that the winds came from four directions. That would be true if the statement was just the four winds, but, it is the four winds of heaven. The phrase “four winds of heaven” indicate that they are an activity of God, as He is the King of Heaven. Other references can be found in Daniel 7:2, Daniel 4:37. We see the four winds of heaven bringing fierce activity against Elam in Jeremiah 49:36. Therefore the four winds of heaven will have a worldwide effect. The Israelite nation had been spread in all directions by the four winds of heaven. (Zechariah 2:6)
From the four horns, the generals of Alexander, arose a small horn. This horn is different from the horn described in chapter 7 verse eight. Here it is a horn from smallness that is growing and rises from one horn and has different descriptions.
Along with this small growing horn will be the return of sacrifices. This horn is not broken by death but by non-violent means of God. This horn will defy God openly. The heart of this horn is self-magnification.
The small growing horn is most certainly Antiochus IV Epiphanes who lived from 175 BC to 164 BC. Antiochus IV Epiphanes ruled the Seleucid Empire which was in Babylon and Syria which is different from the little horn in Chapter 7 that ruled in the end time. This small horn exceeded to the south and east. Antiochus IV Epiphanes campaigned to the south towards Egypt but was halted by the authority of Rome. Antiochus IV Epiphanes also moved toward the east which is Persia and Armenia.
The “Beautiful Land” means the land of God and His people. This term is referenced in Jeremiah 3:19, Ezekiel 20:6 and Zechariah 7:14. Here we see the lawlessness of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The “host of heaven” can mean the sun, moon and stars and their connection to the gods. (Isaiah 34:4 Jeremiah 8:2) It could also mean the Angels in the court of God. (Nehemiah 9:6)
Antiochus IV Epiphanes thought of himself to be a manifestation of the god Zeus and thus made him over the host of heaven. He was known for his robbing of the temples and treating all other gods with great contempt. He was well known for his sacrilegious attitude towards the gods but the Israelites knew him as blasphemous towards the one and true God. Any who believed in gods other than Zeus was persecuted by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. If Antiochus IV Epiphanes thought there was a way to benefit himself he would even persecute the followers of Zeus and rob their temples.
The “host of heaven” could also mean the people of the God of Heaven. Where in verse 11 we read that he magnified himself to be above the “Commander of the host.” Also in verse 12 the “host will be given over” to the horn, which is Antiochus IV Epiphanes. We also see in Daniel chapter 12:3 that the people of God shine like the stars in heaven. As we will see in the next two verses that the people of God are trampled down in their mistreatment and persecution.
This verse seems to confirm that Antiochus IV Epiphanes magnified himself even over the Commander of the host, which set himself against God and those who worshiped Him. The Commander of the host is referenced in Joshua 5:14 as the Captain of the host. The word for Commander or Captain is SAR which means a head person, captain, chief (captain), general, governor, keeper, lord, master, prince, ruler, steward.
The “taking away” was their acts of worship to God. The Sabbaths, feast, offerings and sacrifices. By Antiochus IV Epiphanes forbidding the acts of worship and the reading of the Scriptures and the ultimate desecration of the Temple he took away from God what was His.
“His sanctuary was thrown down” is that the Temple was desecrated and the altar was replaced with an altar for Zeus and therefore the whole of the Temple was useless for the worship of God. The stars, God’s people were also cast down to the ground in verse 10. The Temple was cast down in verse 11 and the truth was cast down in verse 12.
At this time there was much sin and apostasy in Israel and this gave the evil forces an open to have Antiochus IV Epiphanes cast the people of God down because they had transgressed against God and had also transgressed against Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Because of this the people were being turned away from the truth by the persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes who prospered during this time of evil. God’s judgment will come upon him and all who were evil.
We now see a conversation between the holy ones, probably angels. The question is for them how long this devastation will last? Another way to ask this question is to ask how long will this vision last? How long will the Sanctuary and God’s people be trodden under foot? How long before God will justify all that is happening? We see the answer to be two thousand three hundred mornings and evenings before God will justify the books.
The desolation could be the time when the High Priest Menelaus was appointed. He was not from the priestly line and was not a true priest of God. Menelaus stole the Temple vessels and used them for his own purposes. He also slew the true High Priest who was sacred before God. Thus the daily sacrifices ceased and desolated the true Israel.
The two thousand three hundred mornings and evenings presents a challenge in meaning. It could mean 2300 days using the mornings and evenings of Genesis 1. It also could mean 1150 evening sacrifices and 1150 morning sacrifices which have been stopped because of the persecution. The latter idea could be used as an accurate indication for the time that there were no sacrifices.
If it does mean 2300 days, then it is an equivalent time for the five times and a half in Daniel 7:25. “He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.” This would be a time of more than 6 years but less than 7. Seven years is 2520 days and 2300 could be that time rounded off to not reach the perfect 7 year period because God has prevented it.
Daniel was wanting to understand the vision that he had just seen. It was then that he heard the voice of a man perhaps coming from above the water of the river which told the Angel Gabriel to reveal the truth of the vision. The voice came not from an ordinary angel but could have been the one dressed in linen in Ezekiel 9:2. This angel was so powerful that he could declare the end of time, Daniel 12:7, and could mark men for judgment. (Ezekiel 9:2)
Daniel was overwhelmed by the presence of Gabriel and he fell down to his face. It was the voice from the river and the Arch Angel Gabriel that made Daniel aware of the presence of God. Gabriel addressed Daniel as a son of man expressing his humanity and weakness. It was also to show that Daniel was one of the people of God.
Gabriel then addressed him as ‘son of man’, a title suggestive of weakness and humanity, and, in the context of Daniel, of one of the people of God. The interpretation does lead us to think of this vision as an end time vision. But we can also see it as a vision for the near future from that time of Daniel. Daniel’s vision first refers to the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire. It them moves to the Greek Empire. The vision then moves to the end time and the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes and the desecration of the Temple and ends with making the Temple righteous. The forth empire has not yet come up the scene so the purpose of the vision is to bring us up to the end of the vision, the “time of the end.” The concentration of the vision is not on the sweep of history but on the final phase of Antiochus Epiphanes. This is the time that the vision belongs to, the end time.
Daniel lying on the ground face down under the overwhelming effect of the supernatural appearance of the Arch Angel Gabriel was touched by Gabriel which brought him into control of his members. Daniel now regained his strength to receive the revelation from Gabriel.
The vision reveals that God’s indignation had not ceased with the return of his people from exile. That had failed to repent and return to true worship of God and be transformed into a holy nation. There tribulation had continued through the Medo-Persian period to the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This being the latter time of the indignation and moving to the end of time. All of this is in the control of God. The result of Antiochus IV Epiphanes persecution brought on the new era of Israel’s purification. Thus this is in preparation for the second coming of the Messiah. This is also the time of the rise of the forth kingdom of the last days. It began with Rome and has continued in different forms ever since. The time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes are seen as the pivotal moment.
These verses confirm what we have seen thus far of the vision over a span of 300 hundred years. But what we are reading in these verses are leading up to the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Now at the latter time of the Greek Empire, at a time when the transgressions of the Israelite nation have reached their fullest, the one spoken of now arises. “A king of strong countenance, and understanding riddles, will stand up.” This King is none other than Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He is a hard man with a hard countenance and an unyielding spirit. (Deuteronomy 28:50)
Antiochus IV Epiphanes believed himself to be as a god if not god. He saw himself as a wise man and able to understand the things of gods. This arrogance displeased the Israelites which infuriated Antiochus IV Epiphanes towards the Israelite people. He was a master of deceit and sent a general to Jerusalem and slaughtered many Jewish people on the Sabbath.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes believed himself to be as the god Zeus and thus Zeus was operating through him. Other commentators say that it was God who enabled him in order to chastise His people for their disobedience. None the less it is God who allows these things to happen according to His purpose and plan. Much as the Assyrians and Nebuchadnezzar before him. God had used them as His rod of anger. (Isaiah 10:5) The latter is the more likely thought that was in Daniel’s mind.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes is all powerful and is successful in all that he does. None could stand against him and his exploits until the end of his time when he was meat by the Romans. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was not only a mighty warrior but he was able to attack the people of God. That act would lead to his eventual downfall. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the first real persecutor.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes will have great understanding of his cunningness and deceit by which he will be victorious and reap great wealth. He is a man that cannot be trusted as his focus is on only his self and the power that he can wield. Antiochus IV Epiphanes will view himself as a deity and the ruler of all nations. He will come as a friend but devour as a great foe.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes will stand against the true God and desecrate the Temple of God, ban the practice of circumcision, will not allow worship on the Sabbath and will destroy the Holy Scriptures. But he will meet his own destruction by the hand of God as he is destined for death. Many will fear him but God has him in the control of His hand.
Only a set period of time will remain after the desecration of the Temple. The Jew would have a hard time believing that the Temple of God would once again be desecrated or that God would allow it to be so. But this vision of Daniel’s clearly show that these things will come to pass. But this vision is set aside for a time long in the future from their day but is near upon us in our day.
This vision that Daniel had received was of such burden causing great exhaustion that he was ill in his body. So much so that he was unable to carry out his duties for the king. Daniel must have spent much time trying to understand what the Lord God had shown him through this astonishing vision. It is possible that as he tried to explain his vision to others they found it too large for them to grasp and were unable to comprehend it.