Harry Whittaker
Visions in Daniel

7. The Ram and the He-Goat (Daniel 8)

In no other vision revealed to Daniel is there anything to compare with the emphatic repetition here; ‘a vision appeared...appeared...and I saw...and I saw...’ The six-fold repetition underlines the impressiveness and importance of what is now recorded.

The contest between the ram and the he-goat is explicitly expounded in v.20, 21: the two horns of the ram are the kings of Media and Persia; the rough goat is the king of Greece, and its prominent horn is Alexander, the builder of that empire; the four ‘notable horns’ that came up in his place clearly represent the four-fold division of Alexander’s empire (see on 7:6).

So far the interpretation is simple, almost obvious. Put, in verse 9, uncertainties begin to arise. Here there is the appearance of another little horn, which expands its greatness ‘towards the south (Egypt) and the east (Syria) and towards the pleasant Land (of Israel)’.

Here interpretation hesitates between identification with Antiochus Epiphanes, the mad Syrian persecutor of the Jews, and the unexpected expansion of Roman aggrandizement as far east as the Euphrates. The modernists are

stoutly in favour of the first of these (assuming, for their own convenience, a third century B.C. date for the composition of ‘Daniel’).

The details of verse 10 are not decisive; ‘it waxed great even to the host of heaven (see Is. 14:13), and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground (see v.13d here), and stamped upon them.’

However, the details of verse 11 are much more pointed: ‘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’. This was ‘by reason of cast down the truth to the ground’ (v.12).

In this passage the following details are to be noted:

  1. The word ‘place’ means ‘a holy place, the sanctuary.’ This is a very common usage.

  2. The prince of the host is Michael the archangel to whom was specially committed the direction of the affairs of Israel (see 12: 1; 10: 13,21; Josh. 5: 14; Ex. 23:20ff).

  3. ‘Truth’ refers to the Covenants of Promise, set aside with the casting-off of Israel.

  4. The sanctuary was not trodden under foot (see Lk. 21:24) until A.D.70.

  5. This destroying power is called ‘the transgression of desolation’; Jesus himself identified this when foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem: ‘When ye see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place...’ (Mt. 24:15).

All these details are linked with a mysterious time-period: ‘How give both the sanctuary and the host (temple and people) to be trodden under foot?... ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days, and (thus) shall the sanctuary be cleansed’ (v.13, 14).

As one man the commentators have made a sorry mess of their understanding of this time period—through failure to give full value to two important details:

  1. ‘Days’ is at best only a paraphrase of ‘evening-mornings’, the daily sacrifices (two in every 24 hours).
  2. 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, and almost certainly correct, alternative, the time-period now reads: ‘unto thousands (unspecified) and one hundred and fifty days (two sacrifices, in every 24 hours), i.e. 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 Daniel 8, records that the A.D.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 ‘Revelation’, HAW, ch.20).

But this is only half the story.

In the explanation given to Daniel, it was made clear that the prophecy belongs to ‘the last end of the indignation...the time of the end’ (v.17,19); and this was emphasized by the prophet being cast into ‘a deep sleep’ (a fairly obvious figure of death and resurrection: Gen. 15:12; 2:21; Jer. 31:26; Lk. 9:32; Rev. 1:17).

Indeed, the expanded explanation now added reaches well beyond any reference to the Roman destruction: ‘a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences (what does this mean?), shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty but not by his own power (cp. Rev. 17:13)...he shall destroy the mighty and the holy peace he shall destroy many; he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes (the Messiah), but he shall be broken without hand (i.e. by divine power; v.23, 25. Rev. 17:14).’

So, as is stated explicitly in verse 26, ‘the vision of the evening-mornings...shall be for many days.’ This (and the details of v.23-25 just quoted) requires a further fulfilment of the time-period in the Last Days. Accordingly, the Fifth Trumpet (Revelation 9:5,10) repeats its ‘five months’ declaration of judgment against Israel in a context even more relevant to the Last Days than it was to A.D.70.

It is called (v.19) ‘the time appointed’. This Hebrew word mo’ed always refers to one of the outstanding Jewish religious festivals—here, either to Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles (see ‘Passover’, HAW, Ch.14).

Even such considerations as these can hardly be treated as ‘cast-iron’, for there is the assurance of the Lord Jesus that ‘for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened’ (Mt. 24:22). How, or why? He did not explain, but 2 Peter 3:11,12 will be relevant here, if only the elect rise to their spiritual responsibilities with prayers of conviction (Is. 62:6,7).

One other highly important detail bears on what has just been said: the explanation vouchsafed to Daniel was imparted to him by the angel Gabriel (v.16). This was granted because he ‘sought for the meaning’, praying about it. A case of no small impressiveness can be made for believing that, for outstanding saints of God, Gabriel is the angel of answered prayer (Lk. 1:26, 30, 13; 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’).

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