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Daniel 8

Dan 8:1

Dan 8: Daniel's vision of the ram and the goat: (1) The setting of the vision (v 1); (2) The ram (vv 2-4); (3) The goat (vv 5-8); (4) The little horn on the goat (vv 9-14); (5) The interpretation of this vision (vv 15-26); (6) The result of this vision (v 27).

Dan 7 recorded the general history of "the times of the Gentiles," from the time Nebuchadnezzar took the Jews into captivity until the Son of Man's return to the earth. Dan 8 reveals more detail about the second (Persian) and third (Greek) kingdoms, and especially how they relate to Israel.

Two things signal the beginning of a new section in the book: (1) a return to the Hebrew language in the original text (as in Dan 1:1 -- 2:3), and (2) an emphasis on the nation Israel. Evidently Daniel wrote the remainder of this book in Hebrew because the revelation in it concerned his people particularly.

THE THIRD YEAR OF KING BELSHAZZAR'S REIGN: Approx 551 BC, two years after the vision in Dan 7 and about 12 years before the events of Dan 5. Daniel was then living within the kingdom of Neo-Babylonia, the first beast of Dan 7.

Dan 8:2

I SAW MYSELF IN THE CITADEL OF SUSA: Evidently Daniel was in Babylon when he had this vision, but what he saw, including himself, was in Susa (Shushan, AV; cf Eze 8:3; 40:1). Daniel probably knew where he was in his vision because he had visited Susa. It is reasonable to assume that a man in Daniel's position in the Neo-Babylonian government would have visited Susa previously. Susa stood about 200 miles east of Babylon and approximately 150 miles due north of the top of the Persian Gulf. When Medo-Persia overthrew Neo-Babylonia, Susa became the capital of the Persian Empire. Eighty years after Daniel had this vision Susa became Esther's home. One hundred seven years later it was the city from which Nehemiah departed to return to Palestine (Est 1:2; Neh 1:1). The citadel was the palace, the royal residence, that had strong fortifications.

THE PROVINCE OF ELAM: Elam was the name of the province where Susa stood when Daniel wrote this book, not necessarily when he had this vision.

THE ULAI CANAL: Prob an artificial canal which connected the rivers Choastes (the modern Kerkha) and Coprates (the modern Abdizful) and ran close by Susa.

Dan 8:3

A RAM: The ram (male sheep) that Daniel saw standing before the canal represented Medo-Persia (v 20). It corresponds to the lopsided bear in the Dan 7 vision (Dan 7:5).

The ram was especially important for the Persians. The guardian spirit of the Persian Empire was portrayed as a ram. When the Persian king went into battle, he carried the head of a ram. Also, in the ancient world, different zodiac signs represented various nations. Aries, the ram, stood for Persia, and Capricorn (Latin "caper", goat, and "cornu", horn) was Greece.

TWO HORNS: The two horns, representing power, symbolized Media and Persia, the two kingdoms that formed an alliance to create Medo-Persia. The longer horn stood for Persia, which had become more powerful in the alliance and had risen to displace Media in leadership after the two nations merged.

Dan 8:4

THE RAM... CHARGED TOWARD THE WEST AND THE NORTH AND THE SOUTH: Historically the Medo-Persian Empire pushed its borders primarily in three directions. It went westward (into Lydia, Ionia, Thrace, and Macedonia), northward (toward the Caspian Mountains, the Oxus Valley, and Scythia), and southward (toward Babylonia, Palestine, and Egypt). These advances happened mainly under the leadership of Cyrus and Cambyses.

HE DID AS HE PLEASED AND BECAME GREAT: In general, Medo-Persia had its own way for many years, and it glorified itself. "There is nothing inherently wrong about 'doing great things'... but the expression is only used in an unequivocally good sense of God (1Sa 12:24; Psa 126:2, 3); of human beings it tends to suggest arrogance (Jer 48:26; Joel 2:20; Zeph 2:10; Psa 35:26; 55:12), or at least achievement at someone else's expense (Zeph 2:8; Lam 1:9) -- here achievement that presages calamity. The expression has the foreboding ambiguity of the mouth speaking great things in Dan 7:8,20" (Goldingay).

Dan 8:5

A GOAT WITH A PROMINENT HORN: The text also identifies the male goat -- goats are relatives of sheep -- in this vision as representing Greece (v 21). History has confirmed the identification. Alexander the Great is clearly the conspicuous horn. Normally goats have two horns, so this one was unusual.

PROMINENT: "Notable" (KJV), or "conspicuous" (RSV).

CAME FROM THE WEST: Under Alexander, the Greek armies advanced quickly from the west against Persia.

CROSSING THE WHOLE EARTH WITHOUT TOUCHING THE GROUND: "Alexander's conquest of the entire Near and Middle East within three years stands unique in military history and is appropriately portrayed by the lightning speed of this one-horned goat. Despite the immense numerical superiority of the Persian imperial forces and their possession of military equipment like war elephants, the tactical genius of young Alexander, with his disciplined Macedonian phalanx, proved decisive" (Archer).

Dan 8:7

Due to previous attacks by the Persians, the Greeks retaliated against their enemies with unusual vengeance. Alexander won two significant battles in Asia Minor in 334 BC and in 333, first at the Granicus River and then at Issus in Phrygia. Alexander finally subdued Persia with a victory at Gaugamela near Nineveh in 331 BC.

Dan 8:8

Clearly this description corresponds to that of the third beast in Dan 7:6. Alexander magnified himself exceedingly in two ways. He extended the borders of his empire after he conquered Medo-Persia even farther east, into modern Afghanistan and to the Indus Valley. He also became extremely arrogant. He regarded himself as divine and made his soldiers bow down before him. This resulted in his troops revolting.

"Expositors, both liberal and conservative, have interpreted this verse as representing the untimely death of Alexander and the division of his empire into four major sections. Alexander, who had conquered more of the world than any previous ruler, was not able to conquer himself. Partly due to a strenuous exertion, his dissipated life, and a raging fever, Alexander died in a drunken debauch at Babylon, not yet thirty-three years of age. His death left a great conquest without an effective single leader, and it took about twenty years for the empire to be successfully divided" (Walvoord).

PROMINENT: "Notable" (KJV), or "conspicuous" (RSV).

Dan 8:9

Comparison between the "little horn" of Dan 8 and the "ruler" of Dan 9:

The "little horn" of Daniel 8
The "ruler" of Daniel 9
The "little horn" (Dan 8:12-14, 22-25)
The "prince who is to come" (Dan 9:26)
Gabriel is the interpreter (Dan 8:16)
Gabriel explains the vision (Dan 9:21)
Concerns events of the end time (Dan 8:7,19,26)
Events bring matters to conclusion (Dan 9:24)
Opposes the "Prince of princes" (Dan 8:25)
Messiah the Prince will be cut off (Dan 9:25,26)
Removes regular sacrifice (Dan 8:12)
Stops sacrifice and grain offering (Dan 9:27). "People of prince" destroy Jerusalem and the sanctuary (Dan 9:26)
Destroys many (Dan 8:24,25)
Destruction, abominations, desolation (Dan 9:27)
Horn broken without human agency (Dan 8:25)
Complete destruction poured out on him (Dan 9:27)

OUT OF ONE OF THEM CAME ANOTHER HORN: Daniel next saw a rather small horn (king: v 23) grow out of one of the four horns (kingdoms: v 22) that had replaced the single horn (the first king: v 21) on the goat (Greece: v 21). Superficially, at least, this horn is quite clearly different from the little horn that came up among the 10 horns on the fourth beast in the previous vision (cf Dan 7:8,11,24-26) -- which was associated with the 4th beast, and not the third.

"The little horn arising from the third kingdom serves as a prototype of the little horn of the fourth kingdom. The crisis destined to confront God's people in the time of the earlier little horn, Antiochus Epiphanes, will bear a strong similarity to the crisis that will befall them in the... final phase of the fourth kingdom in the last days (as Christ himself foresaw in the Olivet Discourse [Matt 24:15])" (Archer).


TO THE SOUTH AND TO THE EAST: What is the reference point for these directions? History has identified this little horn as Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the eighth king of the Seleucid dynasty. He ruled Syria from 175 to 164 BC (cf 1Ma 1:10; 6;16), and he conducted military campaigns in all of these directions (cf 1Ma 1:20). Therefore the point of reference is Syria.

AND TOWARD THE BEAUTIFUL LAND: This is quite evidently a reference to Palestine (cf Dan 11:16,41,45; Jer 3:19; Eze 20:6,15). Here the vision begins to focus on the future of Israel and the Jews. Antiochus was especially vengeful against the Jews whom he persecuted brutally. " 'He is... one of the greatest persecutors Israel has ever known' (Whitcomb). 'In one assault on Jerusalem, 40,000 Jews were killed in three days and 10,000 more were carried into captivity' (Campbell). 'This suppression came to a head in December 168 BC, when Antiochus returned in frustration from Alexandria, where he had been turned back by the Roman commander Popilius Laenas, and vented his exasperation on the Jews. He sent his general, Apollonius, with twenty thousand troops under orders to seize Jerusalem on a Sabbath. There he erected an idol of Zeus and desecrated the altar by offering swine on it. This idol became known to the Jews as 'the abomination of desolation' ('hassiqqus mesomem', Dan 11:31), which served as a type of a future abomination that will be set up in the Jerusalem sanctuary to be built in the last days (cf Christ's prediction in Mat 24:15)' (Archer)" (Const).

Three years later, on December 25, 164 BC, Judas Maccabaeus, a Jewish nationalist, led the Jews in rededicating the temple to Yahweh. This is the event that Jews have celebrated with Hanukkah ever since.

Dan 8:10

This little horn grew up to the host of heaven, caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and trampled on them. The stars probably refer to the children of Israel, whom God predicted would be as numerous as the stars of heaven (Gen 15:5; 22:17; 37:9,10; cp Dan 12:3; Mat 13:43). They constitute God's host, or armies (Exo 7:4; 12:17,51; Num 33:1).

Dan 8:11

IT SET ITSELF UP TO BE AS GREAT AS THE PRINCE OF THE HOST: By desecrating the temple, Antiochus (literal, illustrious one) effectively exalted himself to a position of superiority over Yahweh, the commander (or prince) of the host (the Jews). An attack on the place set aside for worship of God would have been equivalent to an attack on God Himself. Cp idea, Isa 14:13,14.

IT TOOK AWAY THE DAILY SACRIFICE FROM HIM: Antiochus temporarily terminated the constant sacrifices in the temple, including the daily morning and evening sacrifices, thereby depriving Yahweh of His people's worship (cf 1Ma 1:44-49).

THE PLACE OF HIS SANCTUARY WAS BROUGHT LOW: Apparently Antiochus did not actually tear down the temple, although eventually he desecrated it to such a point that it was hardly fit for use (1Ma 4:48). Its overthrowing consists in its being prevented from functioning as a place of worship of the true God."

This verse also previews another literal fulfillment of the destruction of the temple, which is still future (cf Dan 9:27). Antiochus' actions anticipated what the little horn of Dan 7 will do in the future (cf Dan 7:8,20).

Dan 8:12

BECAUSE OF REBELLION, THE HOST OF THE SAINTS AND THE DAILY SACRIFICE WERE GIVEN OVER TO IT: God would use Antiochus as His instrument of discipline as He had used so many other leaders and nations in Israel's past because of Israel's transgression (cf 1Ma 1:44-49). Antiochus would terminate the sacrifices.

TRUTH WAS THROWN TO THE GROUND: He would also disregard the truth (he destroyed the Torah scrolls, 1Ma 1:56).

Dan 8:13

A HOLY ONE: Heb "qados", evidently an angel (cp Dan 4:17).

THE HOST THAT WILL BE TRAMPLED UNDERFOOT: As the 4th beast did to the "earth", or Land (Dan 7:23), and the enemies did to the sanctuary (Isa 63:18), and the Gentiles did to Jerusalem (Luk 21:24), the holy city (Rev 11:2). And as unbelievers did to the Son of God (Heb 10:29).

Dan 8:14

In 203 BC, a king named Antiochus the Great came into power in Syria, to the north of Palestine. He captured Jerusalem from the Egyptians and began the reign of Syrian power over Palestine. He had two sons, one of whom succeeded him and reigned only a few years. When he died, his brother took the throne. This man, named Antiochus Epiphanes, became one of the most vicious and violent persecutors of the Jews ever known. In fact, he is often called the "Antichrist of the Old Testament," since he fulfills some of the predictions of Daniel concerning the coming of one who would be "a contemptible person" and "a vile king." His name (which he modestly bestowed upon himself) means "Antiochus the Illustrious." Nevertheless, some of his own courtiers evidently agreed more with the prophecies of Daniel, and they changed two letters in his title, from Epiphanes to Epipames, which means "the madman."

His first act was to depose the high priest in Jerusalem, thus ending the long line of succession, beginning with Aaron and his sons through the many centuries of Jewish life. Onias the Third was the last of the hereditary line of priests. Antiochus Epiphanes sold the priesthood to Jason, who was not of the priestly line. Jason, in turn, was tricked by his younger brother Menelaus, who purchased the priesthood and then sold the golden vessels of the temple in order to make up the tribute money. Epiphanes overthrew the God-authorized line of priests. Then, and under his reign, the city of Jerusalem and all the religious rites of the Jews began to deteriorate as they came fully under the power of the Syrian king.

In 171 BC Antiochus invaded Egypt and once again Palestine was caught in the nutcracker of rivalry. Palestine is the most fought-over country in the world, and Jerusalem is the most captured city in all history. It has been pillaged, ravished, burned and destroyed more than 27 times in its history.

While Antiochus was in Egypt, it was reported that he had been killed in battle, and Jerusalem rejoiced. The people organized a revolt and overthrew Menelaus, the pseudo-priest. When report reached Antiochus (who was very much alive in Egypt) that Jerusalem was delighted at the report of his death, he organized his armies and swept like a fury back across the land, falling upon Jerusalem with terrible vengeance. He overturned the city, regained his power, and, guided by the treacherous Menelaus, intruded into the very Holy of Holies in the temple itself. Some 40,000 people were slain in three days of fighting during this terrible time. When he forced his way into the Holy of Holies, he destroyed the scrolls of the Law and, to the absolute horror of the Jews, took a sow and offered it upon the sacred altar. Then with a broth made from the flesh of this unclean animal, he sprinkled everything in the temple, thus completely defiling and violating the sanctuary. It is impossible for us to grasp how horrifying this was to the Jews. They were simply appalled that anything like this could ever happen to their sacred temple.

It was that act of defiling the temple which is referred to by the Lord Jesus as the "desolating sacrilege" which Daniel had predicted (Mat 24:15), and which was reproduced -- to some degree -- by the Roman destruction of Herod's temple in AD 70. As we know from the New Testament, another similar desecration still lies in the future.

Daniel the prophet had said the sanctuary would be polluted for 2300 days (Dan 8:14). In exact accordance with that prophecy, it was exactly 2300 days –- six and a half years –- before the temple was cleansed. It was cleansed under the leadership of a man now famous in Jewish history, Judas Maccabeus. He was one of the priestly line who, with his father and four brothers, rose up in revolt against the Syrian king. They captured the attention of the Israelites, summoned them to follow them into battle, and in a series of pitched battles in which they were always an overwhelming minority, overthrew the power of the Syrian kings, captured Jerusalem, and cleansed the temple. The day they cleansed the temple was named the Day of Dedication, and it occurred on the 25th day of December. On that date Jews still celebrate the Feast of Dedication -- or Hanukkah -- each year.

HAW's alternative: "The reading 'two thousand... ' depends entirely on the Hebrew pointing inserted by the scribes long centuries after the time of Daniel. They arbitrarily chose to read the key word 'thousands' as 'al paim', the dual form (= two thousand), instead of 'al pim', the indefinite plural (thousands).

"With this valid... alternative, the time-period now reads: 'unto thousands (unspecified) and one hundred and fifty days' (two sacrifices, in every 24 hours), ie, a long indeterminate period concluding with a very special five months.

"Then can it be regarded as a remarkable coincidence that Josephus, with no understanding of Dan 8, records that the AD 70 siege of Jerusalem lasted exactly five months from the Passover when it began? And before that Jewish War started, the Book of Revelation already had this detail in one of its prophecies: Rev 9:5,10 (see WRev ch 20)" (WDan).

Other view of the 2,300 "days": "The angel said that the desecration would last 2,300 evenings and mornings. Many commentators take this as meaning 2,300 days (six years, four months, and 20 days) since the Jews described a 24-hour day as evening and morning (Gen 1:5-31). Others believe it means a total of 2,300 evenings and mornings (1,150 of each), namely 1,150 24-hour days (three years, two months, and 10 days). In this case '2,300 evenings and mornings' may mean 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices. This period then may describe the duration of the period when Antiochus did his worst to the temple and the Jews (167-164 BC). I think 2,300 days are in view.

"Some interpreters view the 2,300 as a symbolical number. The problems with this approach are essentially two. First, the other similar numbers in Daniel appear to be literal. Second, arriving at the symbolic meaning of this number is extremely difficult and boils down to guessing. Other interpreters have tried to explain these days as years, but the connection with evenings and mornings probably limits them to days. Perhaps the figure is in days rather than in months or years to give the impression of a long, hard duration.

"The temple would be restored after 2,300 days" (Const).

In summary, some uncertainties, about both the beginning date (of which several are possible) and the ending date (of which at least two are possible) -- as well as the question of the number of days (1,150 or 2,300, or even -- as with HAW -- 150 days) -- make an infallible interpretation unlikely. Nevertheless, the general thrust of the prophecy, according to most expositors, is clear: during the period from 170 to 164 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple of God in Jerusalem. And HAW would certainly see that period as a precursor or type of the later desolations to come, in the Roman invasion of Jerusalem, and in the Last Days antitype.

Dan 8:16

AND I HEARD A MAN'S VOICE FROM THE ULAI CALLING, "GABRIEL, TELL THIS MAN THE MEANING OF THE VISION": "The explanation vouchsafed to Daniel was imparted to him by the angel Gabriel. This was granted because he sought for the meaning, praying about it [cp Dan 7:16-19]. A case of no small impressiveness can be made for believing that, for outstanding saints of God, Gabriel is the angel of answered prayer (Luk 1:13,26,30; 22:43,44; Dan 9:21; 10:12; 6:11,22; Acts 10:30,31; Jer 32:16,18 -- 'Gabriel' means God's Mighty One')" (WDan).

Dan 8:17

Gabriel's approach made Daniel so fearful that he prostrated himself on the ground (cp Dan 2:46; 10:9,10,15; Eze 1:28; 3:23; 44:4; Rev 1:17).

SON OF MAN: The title indicates humanity, and here, in contrast to Gabriel, it stressed Daniel's human weakness (cp Dan 7:13; Eze 2:1; etc).

THE VISION CONCERNS THE TIME OF THE END: The vision dealt with events yet future from Daniel's viewpoint in history.

Dan 8:18

Daniel's response to Gabriel's awesome presence and words was that he fainted. Gabriel proceeded to revive the prophet and to prepare him to receive the remainder of the interpretation.

Dan 8:19

THE APPOINTED TIME OF THE END: "Gabriel clarified that what he was going to explain dealt with 'the final period of the indignation" an' 'the appointed time of the end.' Clearly this was future from Daniel's point in history. Yet does it refer to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes exclusively, or does it refer to the end times before Jesus Christ returns, or both? [Many] interpreters believe that it refers to both in some sense, either as a double fulfillment or as a type and antitype. This conclusion rests on what follows in vv 23-25 and on other uses of the phrase 'the end' in Daniel (Dan 9:26; 11:6,27,35,40,45; 12:4,6,9,13)" (Const).

Dan 8:20

Vv 20-22: // vv 3,4.

Dan 8:23

Vv 23-25: "Almost all scholars recognize that Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled what Gabriel predicted in these verses. He arose in the latter period of... the four kingdoms that arose after Alexander's death, following many transgressors of God's will. He was bold and deceptive. He was powerful because God allowed him to be so. He did much damage especially to Jerusalem and the temple. He became prosperous and carried out his objectives. He destroyed powerful people including the Jewish high priest as well as many Jews. He fooled many people with his shrewdness, some of whom were unsuspecting. He exalted himself even to the extent of minting coins that bore his image and the inscription 'God manifest' (Gr 'theos epiphanes'). He also opposed God, the 'Prince of princes.'

"Many students of these verses have noticed striking similarities between Antiochus Epiphanes as described here and another political leader predicted to appear in the future (cf Dan 7:8,11,21,22,24-26; 9:27; 11:36-45; 12:11; Matt 24:5,23-24,26; Mark 13:6,21,22; Luke 21:8; 2Th 2:3-12... Rev 13:1-10; 19:20; 20:10,15). Therefore they, and I, conclude that these verses are prophetic of the Antichrist as well as of Antiochus. It seems that Antiochus did on a smaller scale what Antichrist will do on a larger one. Apparently in the much later period of the rule of these kings, namely the end times, transgressors will have run their course even more completely. The Antichrist will oppose the Prince of princes, [and the Son of God], who will break him without human agency (Psa 2; Rev 19:1920)" (Const).

Dan 8:25

BUT NOT BY HUMAN POWER: Or "hand", literally. Cp Dan 2:45: "the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands".

Dan 8:26


THE DISTANT FUTURE: The KJV has: "for many days". It pertained to many days in the future, namely four centuries later as well as (possibly) beyond then. The NIV translation ("distant future") unfortunately implies that it pertains ONLY to the distant future, even from our point in history.

Dan 8:27

I WAS APPALLED BY THE VISION; IT WAS BEYOND UNDERSTANDING: In spite of Gabriel's interpretation, there were things that Daniel still did not understand about this vision (cp 1Pe 1:10-12). And so he had to live with unanswered questions, since God did not provide further help for him.

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