In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. Daniel 8:1
The introduction to the book of Daniel (1:1 – 2:4) and the final chapters of the book beginning at this verse (8:1 – 12: 13) were written in Hebrew with the people of Palestine as the primary audience. Daniel chapters 2:4 – 7:28 were written in Aramaic, the common commercial language of the Fertile Crescent, to bear witness of the power and sovereignty of the God of Palestine to the Gentiles.
Daniel had a subsequent vision two years after he had the vision of the four beasts which was recorded in chapter seven.
The year is now 551 B.C. and the situation in the Neo-Babylonian Kingdom is ominous. King Nabonidus has departed for Arabia, leaving Babylon in the hands of an unworthy son, Belshazzar. Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and served as co-regent with his father.
In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great. Daniel 8:2-4
Daniel was fully awake and saw himself transported 350 miles east of Babylon to the fortress of Susa, the very birthplace of the Medo-Persian Empire, the headquarters of Cyrus.
The ram, which had two horns, was a symbol of the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. The length of the horns denoted the eventual great power, authority, wealth, and riches of the Medo-Persian Empire.
One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later… The empire, we know, was built up by two races. The Medes were the dominant people at first and the kings of the Medes ruled the dual monarchy. But under Cyrus and his successors, the seat of power eventually resided with the Persians.
This vision of Daniel provides powerful confirmation that the Medes and the Persians were symbolized by the two silver arms of the dazzling statue of Nebuchadnezzar dream and by the bear that was raised up on one side in Daniel’s dream.
As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. Daniel 8:5-7
From the previous dreams and visions, as well as from the historical record, we understand that the first two empires to arise and subjugate the Jewish people were Babylon and Medo-Persia. The next emperor to arise on the world scene, and represented in Daniel’s vision as swift and unstoppable goat, was Alexander the Great. The goat crossed the face of the earth without touching the ground. The goat seemed rather to fly in the air than to walk upon the earth. This language conveys the swiftness of the conquests of Alexander. In 11 years, from 335 B.C. to 324 B.C., Alexander and his army battled their way across 22,000 miles.
Alexander III King of Macedonia conquered most of the Greek City States, Turkey, Persia, what is now Pakistan, parts of India and Afghanistan as well as Egypt, Asia Minor and Syria from his ascent to the throne at age twenty to his death at age thirty three.
The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven. Daniel 8:8
In Daniel chapter 7, Alexander is represented as a leopard with four wings and four heads. Just as the four heads of the leopard represented the four kings who succeeded Alexander, so do the four horns which grew up in four directions. The Diadochi (from the Greek word Diadokhoi, meaning “Successors”) were the rival generals, administrators, and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death in 323 BC.
Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. Daniel 8:9-12
I believe that this portion of Daniel’s prophetic vision concerning a small horn has had a partial fulfillment in history in the person and reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.). His reign serves as a microcosm and foreshadows the future worldwide reign of the Antichrist.
After Alexander the Great’s empire was divided among his generals (the four horns), Syria and Babylonia became the Seleucid Dynasty. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (the horn that was small but grew in power) was one of the Seleucid emperors and son of Antiochus III the Great.
While the Selucids reigned to the north of Palestine (Judea and Samaria), the Ptolemies reigned to the south of Palestine in Egypt.
Antiochus III was only 18 years old when he ascended the throne of the Seleucid Empire in 223 BC. Even though young, he was nevertheless experienced in government as he had served as Governor of the province of Babylonia under his brother Seleucus III. Antiochus the Great immediately began an effort to conquer the troublesome empire of the Ptolemies. Although he was unable to completely destroy them, yet at the Battle of Panion in the Jordan Valley (198 B.C.) he was able to gain complete control of Palestine.
The Jews were at first happy by this state of affairs. The constant warring between the two dynasties seemed finally to be at an end, and they welcomed Antiochus with open arms. Little did they realize, however, that the Seleucids would prove to be even harsher masters than the Ptolemies.
At about this same time Hannibal, who had been defeated by the Romans at Zama, fled to the court of Antiochus for protection. Still interested in stirring up trouble for Rome, however, Hannibal convinced Antiochus III to invade Greece, whereupon Rome promptly declared war on Antiochus. The Romans defeated Antiochus III in 190 BC, and made him pay dearly for his alliance with Hannibal. He was forced to pay enormous amounts of money, and to surrender his navy and his war elephants. To insure that Antiochus continued making his payments, the Romans took his youngest son to Rome where they kept him hostage for twelve years. This young boy was later to return to the Seleucid Empire and assume the throne under the name Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Three years after his defeat by the Romans, Antiochus the Great died and was succeeded by Seleucus IV, who ruled for the next twelve years. His situation was a most precarious one — somehow he had to come up with fantastic amounts of money to send to the Romans. To raise this money he heavily taxed the people of the land, including the Jews of Palestine.
This created a moral dilemma for the Jews. Some felt it was morally allowable to give money to the government, whereas others felt it was sinful. Thus, two opposing factions formed among the Jews over this issue. The Oniads, under the leadership of the High Priest Onias, were opposed to helping the Seleucids in any way. The other group, led by a man named Jason, felt the opposite, and set about making many false, slanderous reports to the king concerning Onias, in the hopes of undermining him.
Jason, who was the brother of Onias, was only interested in one thing — becoming the High Priest in his brother’s place. He hoped to accomplish this by offering the Seleucids large amounts of money. King Seleucus IV ignored the Jewish squabble, for the most part, and refused to get that deeply involved.
In the year 175 BC, Antiochus IV, also known as Epiphanes, murdered Seleucus IV and took the throne. He immediately took advantage of Jason’s offer of money, and removed Onias from the office of High Priest, installing Jason in his place. Three years later, a man named Menelaus offered Antiochus even more money, so the king removed Jason and made Menelaus the High Priest.
Those Jews who were still trying to be faithful to their God were infuriated by this state of affairs, and their hearts were pained that the position of High Priest could be bought by the highest bidder. Those who were outspoken concerning these abuses were known as the Hasidim (“the pious ones”). It is from this group that the Hasidic Jews of today trace their roots. They renamed Epiphanes (“a manifestation of God”) – to “Epimanes” (“the madman”).
In the year 169 BC Antiochus invaded Egypt in an attempt to destroy once and for all the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Soon it was reported back in Palestine that the king had been killed in battle. When this news reached Jason, he returned from exile and threw Menelaus out of the city and once again assumed the office of High Priest. The news of Antiochus’ death was false, however, and when he returned to Jerusalem he utilized his army to forcibly remove Jason from office and reinstall Menelaus. At this time Antiochus also entered the Temple and stole a great deal of valuable treasure, an act which the pious Jews looked upon as an abomination before God.
The following year (168 BC) Antiochus renewed his campaign against the Egyptians, but he was stopped by the Roman representative Popilius Laenus, and was ordered to leave Egypt and never come back. This so infuriated Antiochus that he came back and took out his frustration on the city of Jerusalem. He tore down the city walls, slaughtered a great many of the Jews, ordered the Jewish Scriptures to be destroyed, and he and his soldiers brought prostitutes into the Temple and there had sex with them in order to defile the Temple. He also issued orders that everyone was to worship the Greek gods, and he established the death penalty for anyone who practiced circumcision, or who observed the Sabbath or any of the Jewish religious feasts and sacrifices.
The cruelty of Antiochus in enforcing these new laws against the Jews became legendary. An aged scribe by the name of Eleazar was flogged to death because he refused to eat the flesh of a swine. In another incident, a mother and her seven young children were each butchered, in the presence of the Governor, for refusing to worship an idol. In yet another incident, two mothers, who had circumcised their newborn sons, were driven through the city and then thrown to their deaths from the top of a large building.
The final outrage for the pious Jews of the land came when Antiochus sacked the Temple and erected an altar there to the pagan god Zeus and a statue of Antiochus as Zeus. Then, on December 25, 168 BC, Antiochus offered a pig to Zeus on the altar of God. This was the last straw! The Jews had taken all they were going to take from these oppressors. The stage was set for a large-scale rebellion of the Jews against the Seleucids. This famous rebellion is known in history as the Maccabean Revolt.
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”
He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.” Daniel 8:13-14.
Antiochus’s men went from town to town and from village to village to force the inhabitants to worship pagan gods. Only one refuge area remained and that was the hills of Judea with their caves. But even there did the Syrians pursue the faithful Jews, and many a Jew died a martyr’s death.
One day the henchmen of Antiochus arrived in the village of Modin where Mattityahu, the old priest, lived. The Syrian officer built an altar in the marketplace of the village and demanded that Mattityahu offer sacrifices to the Greek gods. Mattityahu replied, “I, my sons and my brothers are determined to remain loyal to the covenant which our God made with our ancestors!”
Thereupon, a Hellenistic Jew approached the altar to offer a sacrifice. Mattityahu grabbed his sword and killed him, and his sons and friends fell upon the Syrian officers and men. They killed many of them and chased the rest away. They then destroyed the altar.
Mattityahu knew that Antiochus would be enraged when he heard what had happened. He would certainly send an expedition to punish him and his followers. Mattityahu, therefore, left the village of Modin and fled together with his sons and friends to the hills of Judea. All loyal and courageous Jews joined them. They formed legions and from time to time they left their hiding places to fall upon enemy detachments and outposts, and to destroy the pagan altars that were built by order of Antiochus.
Before his death, Mattityahu called his sons together and urged them to continue to fight in defense of God’s Torah. He asked them to follow the counsel of their brother Shimon the Wise. In waging warfare, he said, their leader should be Judah the Strong. Judah was called “Maccabee,” a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem, “Who is like You, O God.”
Antiochus sent his General Apolonius to wipe out Yehuda and his followers, the Maccabees. Maccabee means “hammer,” which describes the guerrilla warfare he and the Jews waged on the Syrians. They came out of the Judean hills with quick and successful strikes against their enemy.
Though greater in number and equipment than their adversaries, the Syrians were defeated by the Maccabees. Antiochus sent out another expedition which also was defeated. He realized that only by sending a powerful army could he hope to defeat Judah and his brave fighting men.
An army consisting of more than 40,000 men swept the land under the leadership of two commanders, Nicanor and Gorgiash. When Judah and his brothers heard of that, they exclaimed: “Let us fight unto death in defense of our souls and our Temple!” The people assembled in Mitzpah, where Samuel, the prophet of old, had offered prayers to God. After a series of battles the war was won.
Now the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrian vandals. Judah and his followers built a new altar, which he dedicated on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev, in the year 3622.
Since the golden Menorah had been stolen by the Syrians, the Maccabees now made one of cheaper metal. When they wanted to light it, they found only a small cruse of pure olive oil bearing the seal of the High Priest Yochanan. It was sufficient to light only for one day. By a miracle of God, it continued to burn for eight days, till new oil was made available. That miracle proved that God had again taken His people under His protection. In memory of this, the Jewish sages appointed these eight days for annual thanksgiving and for lighting candles.
The 2,300 “evening-mornings” is interpreted to mean 2300 individual morning and evening sacrifices, or 1150 literal days, which was fulfilled during the reign of. Antiochus IV Epiphanes. After three years of guerrilla warfare led by the Maccabees, the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. Hanukkah celebrates the victory over the Syrian army and the rededication of the Temple.
While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”
As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “Understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.” Daniel 8:15-17
There are several references in scripture where a being described as looking like a man was actually an angel. For example, in Genesis 18, Abraham welcomed three guests who appeared at first to be nothing more than some travelers. In the following chapter, two of these guests went to Sodom where they were assumed to be simply a pair of human visitors but turned out to be angels. In this instance, the one who looked like a man was the angel Gabriel who was entrusted to deliver several important messages on God’s behalf. Gabriel means “Strength of God.”
Since the one who spoke to the angel Gabriel in a man’s voice had the authority to issue a command to God’s messenger, it can be deduced that the one speaking was the pre-incarnate Son of God. At the approach of this celestial being Daniel is terrified and falls on his face in awe or respect.
Since the vision concerns activities that will take place at “the time of the end,” it is an indication that besides the initial reference to the reign of Antiochus IV, that the reign of the Antichrist will be the final and ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy. The “time of the end” will be fulfilled during the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), the time of the Great Tribulation.
While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet. Daniel 8:18
Daniel’s strength had been entirely taken away by the vision and his fearful encounter with God’s angel.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. Luke 22:42-43
Just as Jesus, who had been very stressed and troubled in the Garden of Gethsemane, was strengthened by an angel, so was Daniel strengthened by Gabriel’s touch and raised to his feet.
He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power. Daniel 8:19-22
The first king of Greece was Alexander III King of Macedonia. After Alexander’s death, in the prime of life and in the height of his conquests, his brother and two sons were all murdered; and the kingdom was divided among four of his generals. These were Seleucus, who had Syria and Babylon; Lysimachus, who had Asia Minor; Ptolemy, who had Egypt; and, Cassander, who had Greece.
“In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. Daniel 8:23-24
In the time of the end, Syria, Babylon (Iraq), Asia Minor (Turkey) and Egypt which are all Islamic, when rebels have become completely wicked (a description of the murderous jihadists) a fierce-looking king (the Antichrist) will arise. His intent is to eradicate the Jewish people. As of now, I am not sure how Greece will fit into this picture but we do know that Greece’s economy is in dire trouble and workers from all walks of life have united in massive protests around Greece.
He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. Daniel 8:25
This prophecy is confirmed in the book of Revelation.
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Revelation 19:19-20
The Antichrist will be destroyed, not by human power but by the King of kings and Lord of lords.
“The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” Daniel 8:26
In the last days, the vision was unsealed.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It is only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:14-17
The last days began after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, when the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5
I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding. Daniel 8:27