THE BOOK OF DANIEL, Chapter 8
[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
8 In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.
There is much debate as to how long Belshazzar reigned or co-reigned and, therefore, much debate as to when this Daniel had this vision. Commentators who hold to the traditional view of the four beasts, from the previous chapter, being four historical kingdoms, try to carry that vision over into this one.
Most of the prophecies of this chapter have already come to pass, but were written over 200 years before their fulfillment. They have been proven so accurate that skeptics simply claim they were written after the fact.
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 may have not actually been in Shushan, but just appeared to be there in his vision, though nothing in the vision is linked to the location. We are told that Daniel would later be buried in Shushan (Susa), but that was after Medo-Persia had overthrown Babylon. The province of Elam was in Persia, which is modern-day Iran (see Jeremiah 49:34-39).
3 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.
We are clearly told, in verse 20, that this refers to the Medo-Persian empire. The kingdoms of Media and Persia were combined under Cyrus. Media was more ancient, but Persia became more powerful. The ram was the symbol of Persia, and we are told that the king wore a jeweled ram’s head.
4 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 he did according to his will, and became great.
The Medo-Persian empire, under various kings, expanded in these directions, but never eastward. The phrase “no beasts” represents other kingdoms and their kings.
5 And 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.
In verse 21, the angel will explain that the goat is the Grecian empire, and the horn is the first king (Alexander the Great). For skeptics who like to nit-pick, Alexander was not king of Greece, but became king of Macedonia (a kingdom in the Greek peninsula), after his father’s death, and then became leader of the combined Greek states. He was, thereafter, the first king of the Grecian empire that he built.
We are told that the goat was the symbol of the Macedonians. Touching not the ground, refers to the swiftness of conquests by Alexander the Great.
6 And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.
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.
Though the Medo-Persian empire had strong fortifications and its army vastly outnumbered that of Alexander, it was figuratively trampled into the ground.
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.
At the height of his strength and conquests, but when his soldiers refused to continue fighting, Alexander died. His brother, for a time, tried to rule in Alexander’s place. Yet, he and all of Alexander’s family, as well as anyone else who might attempt to rule, were slaughtered. Eventually, we are told, the four most powerful of Alexander’s generals claimed and divided the kingdom: Seleucus in the east; Cassander in the west; Ptolemy in the south, and Lysimachus in the north.
Many commentators suggest that the goat waxing great refers to Alexander’s pride, and is sometimes translated “magnified himself”. Yet, the goat refers to the Grecian empire, and the goat’s horn refers to Alexander. The word translated “came up” suggests a gradual ascent of the four horns. The words translated “winds of heaven” suggest that this division was designed by God.
9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.
There is some disagreement as to whether this little horn refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, to Rome, or to the Antichrist. While the Antichrist is an eleventh horn that comes up among the ten horns in Daniel 7:8, this horn is not an independent horn, but comes from one of the four horns. Verse 23 says this little horn will come up in the latter time of the kingdom of these four horns (the Grecian empire). So, it appears that these verses are referring to Antiochus Epiphanes, who is generally viewed as a foreshadow of the Antichrist, and sometimes called the “Old Testament Antichrist”.
This little horn expands in every direction except north. The “pleasant land” is a reference to Israel (see also- Daniel 11:16; Jeremiah 3:19).
10 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.
Again, there is some disagreement as to whether this verse refers to Antiochus or to the end-times Antichrist. Some believe that it also alludes to Satan, and his rebellion against God (Revelation 12:4). In the Bible, the word “host” simply refers to an army, but the phrase “host of heaven” refers to the cosmos or to spiritual beings. The word “stars”, however, can also refer to noblemen.
The angel, Gabriel, will explain in verses 23-25 that this horn refers to the mortal king who will come to power in the latter days of the Grecian empire. In verse 24, he explains that the stars are “the mighty and the holy people”. But again, Antiochus is viewed as a foreshadow of the Antichrist, so while this prophecy was historically fulfilled, we should also look for an end-times fulfillment.
In fact, every prophecy in the Bible has a near-view and a far-view. A prophesy may be fulfilled in the lifetime of the prophet, but it would also be fulfilled again centuries later, usually near the first or second coming of Jesus.
11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down.
The prince of the host refers to God. Antiochus Epiphanes stopped the daily sacrifices, robbed and defiled the temple, burned the books of the law, and outlawed worship of God. The end-times Antichrist will also war against God personally (Revelation 13:5-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:4).
The phrase “the sanctuary was cast down” seems to suggest a destruction of the temple and appears to give some support to those who believe this little horn is Rome. Antiochus did not destroy the temple, but rather desecrated it and made it unusable. But, the phrase can also be translated “the sanctuary was cast aside”. And, as mentioned already, the angel Gabriel will clearly explain in verses 21-23 that this little horn comes out of the Grecian empire of Alexander the Great.
12 And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.
The nation of Israel seems to have been given into the hands of Antiochus, by God, because of her transgressions. In the last days, many Christians will live wickedly, and God will give the church into the hands of the Antichrist (2 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:2-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; Revelation 13:5-6).
13 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?
While the KJV uses the word “saint”, the word literally means “holy one” and is generally believed to refer to angels. The question appears to be not how long until this vision is fulfilled, but how long will be the duration of the transgression. While the angel is the one asking the question, the answer will be given to Daniel.
14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
The number of 2,300 days in this prophecy seems to refer to Antiochus. The Antichrist will be given authority over the saints for 1,260 days (Daniel 7:25). Yet, as we have seen, this vision appears to have a dual application. This verse literally translates as “2,300 evenings and mornings”, which some believe to be 1,250 days.
15 And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.
Though he had the appearance of a man, Daniel understood this to be an angel. He is identified in the next verse as the angel Gabriel.
16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.
Gabriel is the first of two angels named in the scriptures (see also- Daniel 9:21. Luke 1:19, Luke 1:26). The second angel is Michael (Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; Jude 1:9. Revelation 12:7). Most commentators believe the voice coming from the river was that of Christ.
17 So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.
As we shall see in the next verses, the “time of the end” refers to the latter days of the Grecian Empire. Yet, as this prophesy appears to have a dual application, it would also refer to the last days before the return of Christ.
18 Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright.
Overcome by fear, there is no strength left in him (see also- Daniel 10:8-10; Genesis 15:12; Judges 6:22; Judges 13:20-22; Isaiah 6:5; Luke 1:11-12, Luke 1:28-29; Luke 2:9).
19 And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.
The word “indignation” refers to the wrath of God. This can be applied to both the time of Antiochus and the time of the Antichrist.
20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.
21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.
As mentioned earlier, all of Alexander’s family was slaughtered after his death, and the four most powerful generals claimed the kingdom and divided it into four inferior kingdoms.
23 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
In the final period of, or in the decline of, the kingdom of the four horns. The transgressors appear to be the people of God rebelling against Him. Understanding dark sentences seems to refer to deceit and cunning. This verse can also be applied to the prophecies of the Antichrist (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11).
24 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
The phrase “not by his own power” may refer to his gaining power through deceit, or to his great amount of support from pagan Jews, or that his power was given to him by God to punish the nation of Israel (verse 12).
At the statement “he shall destroy wonderfully”, meaning to an amazing degree, many commentators conclude that this is referring to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. This, despite the fact that the angel clearly says this king comes from among the four horns of the Grecian Empire. The destruction by Antiochus was, and by the Antichrist will be, the destruction of God’s people.
25 And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.
For the third time, the angel mentions the treacherous deceit of Antiochus and the Antichrist. Prince of princes– The word “prince” is not a leader in waiting, as in our modern language, but refers to a commander (Isaiah 9:6). Antiochus did, and the Antichrist will, directly war against God. Broken without hand– regardless of the circumstances, his death is an act of God.
26 And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.
27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.
The phrase “shut thou up the vision” appears to mean put it safely on record, rather than to keep it secret, since Daniel obviously shared it with others (but none understood it).