In Part 2, we dove deep into Daniel 7. Now I would like to dive deep into Daniel 8. Chapters 8-12 describe God’s people during the Times of the Gentiles. This chapter focuses on events during the second and third kingdoms from Daniel’s past visions of two animals that represent earthly kingdoms.
Critics of the book of Daniel use this chapter to proclaim the book of Daniel was not written by him but had to be written in the second century B.C. Why do critics make such a claim? Because of the prophecy of Daniel’s prophetic vision in chapter 8, which history later described in such great detail in the Maccabean books, critics like to use that as proof for a later timing of this prophetic message.
Those historical books explain how Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a hated Seleucid king. He was hated because he severely persecuted the Jewish people and desired to eradicate any worship of YHWH. The Jewish priest, Mattathias, who leads the Maccabean revolt against Epiphanes and the Seleucid Empire, pressured his five sons to remain faithful, citing the three Jews thrown into the blazing furnace and Daniel thrown into the lion’s den, as examples. These details can be found in the historical book of 1 Maccabees 259-60. Since Mattathias, who died in 166 B.C., used the events recorded in the book of Daniel (such as the fiery furnace and the lion’s den), we can confirm Daniel’s writings were widely known in the 2nd century B.C., which means the book of Daniel could not have been written in the Maccabean period as critics like to suggest.
Background of Chapter 8
Chapter 8 describes Daniel’s vision (vs. 1-14). Once again, Daniel needs a divine interpretation (vs. 15-260). This event takes place in the third year of King Belshazzar (551 B.C.), which means two years have passed since chapter 7.
In this vision, Daniel found himself in Shushan on a riverbed near the king’s palace. This was a vision, meaning Daniel was not physically transported to Shushan (Ezekiel 8:3, Rev 1:10). Susa (its Greek name) was 230 miles south of Babylon and 120 miles north of the Persian Gulf. It was the capital of Elam (Neh. 1:1, Esther 1:2).
At the time of Daniel’s vision, the palace at Susa had not been built yet. The construction was done by Darius I Hystaspes (who reigned from 522 to 486 B.C.) This vision happened in 551 B.C., meaning Daniel had to be carried away by the spirit to the Susa of the future!
Standing by the Ulai River would have given Daniel a panoramic view of Shushan or Susa. He looks up, and in verse 3, he says he saw a ram by the canal. Verse 20 identifies that the ram is a symbol of the Medo-Persian empire. According to their holy book, the Bundahishn, the Persian “guarding spirit,” is the form of a man with pointed horns. Also, the nations of the ancient East were all represented by the zodiac signs. The sign for Persia is Arias the ram.
The Ram Had 2 Horns
Verse 20 reveals one horn represents the Medes and the other the Persians. The horns were not equal in length as one was “higher” than the other, meaning one nation was larger and stronger. We know the Persians were more powerful. Daniel says one horn “came up last,” which was true, as the Medes were a major power before the Persians. They were a nation an entire century before Persia. History confirms that in 612 B.C., the Medes helped the Babylonians conquer the Assyrians. The ram is like the chest and arms of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (2:32) and the lopsided bear of Daniel’s vision (7:5).
In verse 4, Daniel says he “saw the ram pushing westward and northward and southward.” Remember, these are all the future things being revealed to him; these events have not occurred yet.
History tells us the Medo-Persian empire expanded westward by conquering Babylon, Syria, and Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). They also expanded northward to the Caspian Sea where they conquered Armenia and Scythia (modern-day Ukraine and Russia). Then, they expanded southward, overthrowing Egypt and Ethiopia. They did not make any significant conquests in the East. Verse 4 also prophetically says, “No beast could withstand this ram.” Again, history reveals no other nation could withstand their attacks.
According to Daniel chapters 2 and 7, God allows each Gentile empire a certain amount of time before terminating its dominion and transferring the power to another. In 551 B.C. — the time of this vision — the Babylonian empire was still the power in the world. In verses 5 to 14, Daniel saw a male goat coming from the west.
For three reasons, we know the goat is the Greek empire. First, verse 21 reveals this: the king of Greece is Alexander the Great. Second, when he came to conquer Persia, he came from Macedonia and Greece, which both are west of Persia. Remember, Daniel saw the goat coming from the west. Third, the nations of the ancient East were all represented by the zodiac signs. The sign for Greece is Capricorn, the one-horned goat, and the national emblem for Macedonia was a goat.
Alexander the Great
“The goat touched not the ground,” which was true, as Alexander’s armies moved extremely fast. His military campaigns extended further than those of the Babylonian and the Persian empires. The “horn of vision” was visible because it protruded high and prominently into the air. This horn was the king — Alexander the Great.
Alexander’s father, King Phillip II, transformed Macedonia from a small kingdom into the most formidable fighting force in the region. He was killed when Alexander was 20 years old. Alexander continued with his father’s army, crushing all opposition. Alexander was also well known for his understanding of philosophy, which he learned from his tutor, Aristotle. He desired to spread this Greek philosophy, Greek culture, and the Geek language across the globe, which he did. Alexander the Great is why Greek is the original language of the New Testament.
The Destruction of the Ram
Verses 6 and 7 describe the destruction of the Medes-Persian empire. Daniel foresaw the goat (Alexander) coming against the ram (Persia). One hundred years before Alexander’s campaign, Darius the Great and his son Xerxes tried to invade Greece, not once but twice (in 490 B.C. and 480 B.C.). Both times, Persia failed to conquer Greece, and the Greeks never forgave them for trying.
In retaliation, Alexander took a “small” army of 35,000 as he conquered the ram (Persia). This assault happened in May of 334 B.C. By winning this battle, Alexander freed all Greek cities from Persian control. His second battle took place in November of 333 B.C. He took Phoenicia (modern-day Lebanon), Egypt, and Israel from Persia in this battle. The third and last battle occurred in October 331 B.C., which gave him control of all the land from the Tigris River to Nineveh, ending the Persian empire. Alexander then conquered Susa — the capital of the Medes-Persian empire — and looted and burned down the palace.
The 4 Horns
Verse 8 explains what happened to the Hellenistic (Greek) empire. After Alexander’s death in June of 323 B.C., and after twenty years of civil war, the empire was split up by four of his generals:
- Cassander took Macedonia and Greece in the West
- Lysimachus took Thrace and Bithynia in the North
- Ptolemy took Egypt, Israel, and Petra in the South
- Seleucus took Babylonia and India in the East
The Little Horn — Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Verse 9 prophesized the rise to power of Antiochus IV Epiphanes — the King of Syria — who ruled from 175 to 164 B.C. He was known as “the Madman.” In Daniel’s vision, he is seen as a little horn, distinguished from the Little Horn in Daniel 7:8.
Daniel is shown the future path of victory for this ruler — He will first attack Egypt and then Jerusalem. He severely persecuted Jews in Judah and Samaria. His evil ways were what led the Maccabees to revolt against him. Verse 9 is fulfilled in the historical document of 1 Maccabees 1:20.
Verses 11 and 12 prophetically describe a specific action of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This evil act is the foreshadowing of the Antichrist’s “abomination of desolation.” Epiphanes took the self-claimed title of deity. Epiphanes means “God manifest.” His goal was to stop Jewish temple worship and to “cast down” or desecrate the Jewish temple (1 Maccabees 1:21-23).
- He emptied the Temple of its furnishings and commanded the Jewish people to violate the Law of Moses by profaning the sabbath and festivals and by setting up altars to pagan gods.
- He built idol altars throughout Judah and burned incense in the streets.
- He polluted the Temple in Jerusalem, called it the Temple of Zeus, and filled it with debauchery.
- He built a statue of Zeus and commanded the Jews to sacrifice and worship this god.
- In 167 B.C., he offered a pig to the pagan god Zeus on the altar and desecrated the Holy Temple.
In verses 13 and 14, two angels appear — one asks a question, and one provides an answer. Verse 13 asks, “How long would what Daniel saw in his vision last?” How long would the Little Horn — Antiochus — be allowed to stop true worship? The angel mentioned “the transgression that makes desolate,” placing the image of Zeus in the Jewish Temple. The angel also mentions “the sanctuary and host,” which is saying the abomination would take place in the Holy Temple and the “host” — the Jewish people — would be persecuted.
Verse 14 provides the answer: 2,300 evenings. The prophetic fulfillment of that response is recorded in detail in 2 Maccabees 4:7-50.
- The persecution of the Jews in the Holy Land began in 175 B.C. when the High Priest Onias III was replaced.
- Antiochus replaced him with his evil brother, Jason (2 Maccabees 4:7)
- Jason was replaced by an even more evil brother, Menelaus, who bribed Antiochus for the position of High Priest.
- Menelaus assassinated his brother Onias.
- Onias was the only legitimate high priest, and after his removal, there were only illegitimate priests until 164 B.C. when Antiochus died.
The Abomination of Desolation concerned the placing of the statue of Zeus, which had Antiochus’ face on it. This statue was placed on the 25th of Kislev in 168 B.C. (November/ December). Counting backward, the 2,300 evenings (days) the angel spoke about would have begun on September 9, 171 B.C.
To enforce his laws and to ensure the Jewish people engaged in idol worship, Antiochus sent his soldiers to villages throughout Judah. When they reached a small village (called Mod’in), which is 12 miles northwest of Jerusalem, the soldier demanded the local leader — a priest named Mattathias — be an example and sacrifice a pig on a pagan altar. Mattathias refused and said he would kill any Jew who attempted to do so. He then killed the king’s representatives and tore down the pagan altar.
Antiochus responded by attacking the Jewish people of that village, killing men, women, children, and animals. 1 Maccabees 2:38 recorded that 1,000 people died that day. This attack and slaughter of the innocent is what triggered the Jewish revolt. In 167 B.C., Mattathias and his five sons were joined by a group of Jews to liberate their country, which is recorded in the historical book of 1 Maccabees 2:42.
The priest’s family, known as the Maccabees — which means “The Hammer” — kept fighting. It took three years, but they were victorious. Because of their victory, the Temple was cleansed in 165 B.C. The Maccabees continued their efforts to reestablish true worship of Yahweh in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
- After they cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem.
- They demolished the old pagan altar.
- They built a new holy altar and made new holy vessels.
- These holy vessels included a lampstand, an altar of incense, a table of showbread, and curtains.
- Then, they rededicated the Temple.
This cleansing and rededication happened three years to the day on the 25th of Kislev 165 B.C. (November/ December). The proof of the fulfillment of Daniel 8:14 is recorded in 1 Maccabees 4:36-59, 2 Maccabees 10:1-9, and by Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities.
When King Solomon dedicated the First Temple, he decided they should follow Sukkot — the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-36, Numbers 29:35, 2 Chronicles 7:8-10). So, as outlined in Scripture, the dedication of the First Temple was observed with eight days of lighting of the lampstands. The Maccabees decided to follow that example, and this is why Chanukah is celebrated for eight days.
Daniel had a deep desire to understand the meaning of this vision. In verses 15 to 18, a man who only had the appearance or likeness of a male appears. This language reveals this was not a human but an angel (Genesis 6:2, 18:2).
A message is given to the angel Gabriel. One can ask, did Daniel hear the voice of God? Or, did Daniel hear the voice of the Archangel Michael? Michael and Gabriel are connected later in Daniel (10:13, 21, 12:1). The Archangel Michael does have the authority to give orders to other angels. This is the first time in Scripture the name of a good angel appears (8:16, 9:21). The first appearance of an angel’s name in the New Testament happens in Luke 1:19, 1:26.
Verses 17 to 19 describe the effect this encounter had on Daniel. The angel scared Daniel to the point that he fell to the ground (Joshua 5:14, Ezekiel 1:28). Gabriel addresses Daniel as “Son of Man” (Ezekiel explains this displays human frailty). The angel informed Daniel that the vision he saw belonged to “the time of the end.” This pronouncement refers to the days of the Antichrist. This revelation means Daniels’s vision extended far beyond the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. It goes to the end times!
Verse 18 explains the effect of Gabriel’s words on Daniel personally. He fell into a deep sleep. Abraham experienced something similar in Genesis 15:12. As Daniel lay on the ground, the angel touched him and had him stand up. From Daniel’s perspective, the time of Antiochus was still the future and could be what Gabrel was referring to. However, Gabriel went beyond Antiochus to the time of the Antichrist (the Antichrist was introduced in chapter 7 as the Little Horn.) Gabriel specifically stated the later time of the indignation, referring to one very particular period of wrath — the Tribulation — and the final king of the Times of the Gentiles — the Antichrist. What Antiochus did in history, the Antichrist will do in the future.
Verses 20 to 22 give us the interpretation of the ram and the interpretation of the goat. It is common with prophecy to have a meaning for the original audience — the ones to whom it is first revealed to — and a meaning for a future audience. This prophecy reveals there are two types of futures: the immediate future, which in this case would be the Medo-Persians and Alexander the Great, and the second future, which is the Antichrist and the Tribulation.
Verse 22 switches from plural to singular language, which points out that Gabriel was not referring to the four Greek kingdoms. The angel is making a specific point to Daniel. Rather than dealing with the more immediate future, he is dealing with the far-distant future.
In verses 23 to 26, Gabriel gave a prophetic description of the Antichrist and pointed out fourteen characteristics of this evil person. Gabriel concludes his interpretation by instructing Daniel what to do with this vision. He is to seal it up. Then he explains the reason for sealing up the vision, ” for it belongs to the days to come” (Ezekiel 12:27).
The Impact this Had on Daniel
After recovering from this encounter, which caused Daniel to be ill for several days, he returned to work. Daniel was still not able to comprehend this vision completely. The vision was not for Daniel but for a future generation.
As we progress in this series, we can all look up and say, “Maranatha, Lord Jesus!”