Next, Daniel receives a vision of a “ram” and a “goat.” The ram represents the kingdom of the “Medes and Persians,” and the goat the kingdom of Greece, beginning with its first great king who overthrew the “ram.” The vision is followed by an interpretation provided by an angelic figure.
The focus of the vision is on the figure represented by the “little horn,” a king who rules one of the four lesser kingdoms that appear after the death of the “great king” of Greece.
The visions in chapters 7 and 8 are related – There are multiple structural, verbal, and conceptual parallels. The imagery of chapter 7 is “apocalyptic” and cosmic, and therefore, ambiguous. In chapter 8, both the vision and its interpretation include clear historical references.
Two of the four “kingdoms” or “beasts from the sea” described in chapter 7 are named in chapter 8 – The “Medes and Persians” and “Greece.” Both visions are received by Daniel during the reign of Belshazzar, both are interpreted by an angel, and both end with Daniel “troubled” by what he sees.
A common theme is an assault against the “people of the saints” by the same malevolent figure – The “little horn.”
Daniel received the vision of the “ram and goat” in 550 B.C., approximately the same time that Cyrus the Great annexed the kingdom of the “Medes” to his growing Persian empire; thus, his realm became the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians” – (Daniel 8:1-3).
Daniel was in “Shushan” or “Susa” when he received the vision. It was the ancient capital of the Median province of Elam located between Babylon and Persia. He was along the river “Ulai,” the waterway along which the city was built. Susa became a prominent royal city in the Persian Empire – (Nehemiah 1:1, Esther 1:1-2).
He received the vision “after that which appeared to me at the first,” a reference to the preceding vision described in chapter 7. Thus, the two visions are connected.
Alongside the river, the prophet saw a “ram with two horns.” One horn came up after the first, then grew higher than the first one. This feature corresponds to the “bear” from the previous vision that has one side elevated higher than the other.
RAM vs GOAT
- (Daniel 8:4-8) – “I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward, and no beasts could stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will and magnified himself. And as I was considering, behold, a goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a prominent horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had the two horns, which I saw standing before the river, and ran upon him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close to the ram, and he was moved with anger against him, and smote the ram, and broke his two horns, and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him to the ground and trampled upon him, and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. And the goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of heaven.”
The “ram” was pushing “westward, northward, and southward.” No nation could resist its expansion. In the interpretation, it is identified as the “kingdom of the Medes and the Persians,” which, historically, expanded rapidly in all directions, but especially to the south, west, and north.
To the south Persia conquered Babylonia, Egypt, and Libya; to the west, Lydia, and most of Asia Minor; and to the north, Armenia and the Scythians.
Next, a “goat” charged out from the west so rapidly that its feet “touched not the ground.” It had a prominent horn between its eyes and rushed headlong into the “ram,” casting it to the ground and breaking both horns.
The goat’s “prominent horn” represents the first and great “king of Greece.” This can be none other than Alexander the Great, the Macedonian warlord who conquered the Persian Empire in only three years. But at the height of his strength, this “prominent horn” was broken and replaced by four lesser but “notable horns” aligned with the “four winds of heaven.”
There are several conceptual links to the third “beast,” the leopard. Its two pairs of “wings” symbolizes swiftness in conquest. Likewise, the “goat” conquers so swiftly that its feet do not touch the ground. The leopard has “four heads,” just as the “prominent horn of the goat” is broken and replaced by four lesser horns.
- (Daniel 8:9-14) – “And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great toward the south and the east, and toward the glorious land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars, it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them. Yea, it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the daily burnt-offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it together with the daily burnt-offering through transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who spoke, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily burnt-offering, and the transgression that desolates to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, For two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”
THE LITTLE HORN
The “little horn” emerged from one of the four lesser horns. It “waxed great” in three directions. This is the same figure as the “little horn” from the “fourth beast” in chapter 7.
The term “beauty” may mean the “beautiful land,” although the word for “land” is not present in the Hebrew text. It may refer to Mount Zion where the “sanctuary” was situated.
The “little horn” waxed great against “the host of heaven” and “removed the daily burnt-offering and cast down the sanctuary.” This appears to describe an assault against the Temple and its sacrificial rituals – (Psalm 48:1-2, 50:2, Daniel 11:16, 11:41).
The overthrow of the sanctuary and the assault on the saints are described in mythological terms. The “little horn” waxes great, even to the “host of heaven” – it casts down stars and “tramples them underfoot,” further links to the “little horn” from the preceding vision – (Daniel 7:21-25).
The “little horn” exalts itself over the “Prince of the Host.” Elsewhere, Yahweh is described as the “Lord of hosts,” and the reference here probably refers to Him. Thus, the “little horn” attempts to trespass on things that are the prerogative of God.
An angelic being then asked, “How long shall be the vision concerning the daily burnt-offering and the desolating transgression, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot?” This introduces a key term that links this vision with the remaining visions of Daniel – The “transgression” or “abomination that desolates.” The Hebrew term rendered “desolates” translates a participle form of the verb shamem, meaning “desolate, make desolate, devastate” – (Daniel 8:13, 9:27, 11:31, 12:11).
The angel’s question highlights the concern of the vision – The removal of the daily burnt offerings, and their restoration. In other words, the disruption of the sacrificial system and the desecration of the Temple.
The “little horn” is a malevolent figure that acts wickedly, but it does not do so of its own accord. Note the first question: “How long is the vision…for both sanctuary and host to be given over to be trampled?” This implies divine purpose. The sanctuary is given to the “little horn” to be “trampled underfoot” until the end of the appointed time – (Daniel 7:20-22).
Another angel responds – “For two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings, then will the sanctuary be cleansed.” This is the goal – to cleanse the sanctuary. The preposition rendered “until” confirms this profanation is according to a divine decree that will end at the predetermined time.
The “sanctuary” will be vindicated and restored, not destroyed. The purpose is purgation and restoration, not destruction. In the end, the “little horn” will be “broken without hand.” In contrast, the “sanctuary” will be restored – (Daniel 8:25).
The expression “evening-morning” has no conjunction between the two nouns – they form a single unit of measure – “Evening-morning.” The phrase refers to the daily burnt offerings made each morning and evening.
In the “law of the burnt offering,” sacrifices were laid on the altar “from evening until morning.” Thus, the 2,300 “evenings-mornings” equates to one thousand eleven hundred and fifty days (1,150) – (Leviticus 6:8-18).
The vision is interpreted by an angel in the last half of the chapter. Its central figure is the “little horn” and its assault against the “sanctuary.” This is the passage that first introduces the reality that is known as the “abomination that desolates.”
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