Interpreting the Vision of Daniel 8 – Daniel 8:1-27

You may think that I have gotten lazy, or that I’m not prepared this evening, but such is not the case. I have spent hours looking at this chapter, trying to come up with some marvelous sermon outlines. Unfortunately – I have not been successful. Despite the wonderful material in this chapter, it doesn’t develop into neat sermonic packages. Therefore, we are going to have little more than a shallow exposition tonight. Furthermore, except for one particular section, this is a fairly straight-forward chapter. Sure, we will have some questions, but they are only about interesting details.

“In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.”

This vision was given to Daniel about two years after the vision of the previous chapter. For two years, the Lord left Daniel confused and disturbed, despite the man’s prayers for enlightenment. Once again we are reminded that God is not obligated to reveal things like this to us. Shushan, the palace of the Persians, by the river Ulai, was to the east of Babylon, in what is now Iran. But was Daniel actually at Shushan, or did it merely seem that he was there at the time of this vision? I tend to think that he was actually there. And again, was Daniel awake or asleep when this vision was given? Was it a dream or something else? That is not really an important question. It was a miraculous revelation no matter how it was given.

The Ram.
“Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.”

As I said this morning, revelation was made before the fall of Babylon to the Medes and the Persians. But this part of the revelation is about those Medes and Persians. It is essentially the same revelation as that of the bear in the last chapter. This ram had two horns, the second of which grew to be larger. Just as the bear rose up on one side, one horn was higher and stronger than the other. And as history tells us, when Babylon fell, it was to the Medes and the Persians. But it was the Persians who were the stronger of the two. Eventually Cyrus will succeed Darius, and he was a much stronger king. This kingdom was centered in Iran, but it extended north to the Caspian Sea, west into Turkey, and south into Egypt.

We are not left to wonder about the identity of this ram, because someone tells Daniel. Verse 20 – “The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.”

Next we come to the Goat.
“And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.” Again we are not left to wonder about the identity of this beast. Verse 21 – “And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.”

Alexander the Great, sometimes called Alexander III, was obviously not the first Grecian king. It was his father, Philip of Macedonia, who made the north of Greece particularly strong. But Alexander was by far the number one king of Macedonia. He was the first in the sense of power and prestige. “Not touching the ground” suggests the speed with which this animal king was traveling toward Persia. History tells us that Alexander conquered the greatest empire in the world in about twelve years. As I said before, it was primarily with light cavalry and light infantry. He came to the ram that had two horns, and defeated him in three successive battles. And that was despite the fact that Persia had an army approximately five times the size of the Greeks. The scripture says that the goat was filled with choler (hatred) against the ram. It’s beyond our purview this evening, but if you think back you might recall that the Persians had been harassing various Grecian city states for many years. The battle of Marathon, a temporary victory of Greeks over Persians, took place in 490 A.D. And the battle of Thermopylae, where supposedly 300 Spartans held off the Persians for a while, took place about ten years later. The Persians would have loved to crush Greece and to continue to expand their empire to the west. But Philip united many of the Greek city states, and his son Alexander took the fight to the Persians. The Greeks hated the Persians with due cause.

One of the outstanding details of this prophesy about Greece is that when Alexander died, his kingdom was divided into four segments. Verse 22 – “Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation.” It is said that after the annihilation of Persia, and with little else to do, Alexander died of a broken heart. It is said that he drank himself to death, because he had nothing else to conquer. It’s a shame that he couldn’t conquer his own heart. After his death, Cassander became ruler of the northern portion of the empire – Macedonia. Ptolemy was granted Egypt and the south. Lysimachus ruled in southern Greece. And Seleucus became the ruler of the east which included Babylon and Israel. But eventually another player became involved – a man named Angionus.

The Little Horn.
The little horn of this vision, is not the little horn of the last chapter, but this one illustrates the other. “And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered. Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”

What we have described here is a Satanically assisted human attack upon the worship of Jehovah, which culminated in the Maccabean wars. One of the descendants of the conquering Greeks, took it upon himself to enter the sanctuary of the rebuilt temple, desecrating it. Now, I’m going to do something which I don’t think that I have ever done before. I’m going to read a chapter from one of the books of the Apocrypha. I do not believe that the Apocrypha is the Word of God, even though it is found in some versions of the Bible. It is even found in early copies of the King James Bible, with the notation that it is not canonical – scripture. It does contain history some of which is more or less accurate. First Maccabees 1 tells us about the man, who I believe is prophesied by Daniel in these verses. Please listen as I read from First Maccabees.

“And it happened, after that Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came out of the land of Chettiim, had smitten Darius king of the Persians and Medes, that he reigned in his stead, the first over Greece, And made many wars, and won many strong holds, and slew the kings of the earth, And went through to the ends of the earth, and took spoils of many nations, insomuch that the earth was quiet before him; whereupon he was exalted and his heart was lifted up. And he gathered a mighty strong host and ruled over countries, and nations, and kings, who became tributaries unto him. And after these things he fell sick, and perceived that he should die. Wherefore he called his servants, such as were honourable, and had been brought up with him from his youth, and parted his kingdom among them, while he was yet alive. So Alexander reigned twelves years, and then died. And his servants bare rule, every one in his place. And after his death they all put crowns upon themselves; so did their sons after them many years: and evils were multiplied in the earth. And there came out of them a wicked root – Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king, who had been an hostage at Rome, and he reigned in the hundred and thirty and seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks. In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow. So this device pleased them well. Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them licence to do after the ordinances of the heathen: Whereupon they built a place of exercise at Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen: And made themselves (spiritually) uncircumcised, and forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold to do mischief. Now when the kingdom was established before Antiochus, he thought to reign over Egypt that he might have the dominion of two realms. Wherefore he entered into Egypt with a great multitude, with chariots, and elephants, and horsemen, and a great navy, And made war against Ptolemee king of Egypt: but Ptolemee was afraid of him, and fled; and many were wounded to death. Thus they got the strong cities in the land of Egypt and he took the spoils thereof. And after that Antiochus had smitten Egypt, he returned again in the hundred forty and third year, and went up against Israel and Jerusalem with a great multitude, And entered proudly into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels thereof, And the table of the shewbread, and the pouring vessels, and the vials. and the censers of gold, and the veil, and the crown, and the golden ornaments that were before the temple, all which he pulled off. He took also the silver and the gold, and the precious vessels: also he took the hidden treasures which he found. And when he had taken all away, he went into his own land, having made a great massacre, and spoken very proudly. Therefore there was a great mourning in Israel, in every place where they were; So that the princes and elders mourned, the virgins and young men were made feeble, and the beauty of women was changed. Every bridegroom took up lamentation, and she that sat in the marriage chamber was in heaviness, The land also was moved for the inhabitants thereof, and all the house of Jacob was covered with confusion. And after two years fully expired the king sent his chief collector of tribute unto the cities of Juda, who came unto Jerusalem with a great multitude, And spake peaceable words unto them, but all was deceit: for when they had given him credence, he fell suddenly upon the city, and smote it very sore, and destroyed much people of Israel. And when he had taken the spoils of the city, he set it on fire, and pulled down the houses and walls thereof on every side. But the women and children took they captive, and possessed the cattle. Then builded they the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with mighty towers, and made it a strong hold for them. And they put therein a sinful nation, wicked men, and fortified themselves therein. They stored it also with armour and victuals, and when they had gathered together the spoils of Jerusalem, they laid them up there, and so they became a sore snare: For it was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary, and an evil adversary to Israel. Thus they shed innocent blood on every side of the sanctuary, and defiled it: Insomuch that the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them: whereupon the city was made an habitation of strangers, and became strange to those that were born in her; & her own children left her. Her sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness, her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into reproach her honour into contempt. As had been her glory, so was her dishonour increased, and her excellency was turned into mourning. Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people, and every one should leave his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king. Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the sabbath. For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Juda that they should follow the strange laws of the land, And forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in the temple; and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days: And pollute the sanctuary and holy people: Set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine’s flesh, and unclean beasts: That they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation: To the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances. And whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the king, he said, he should die. In the selfsame manner wrote he to his whole kingdom, and appointed overseers over all the people, commanding the cities of Juda to sacrifice, city by city. Then many of the people were gathered unto them, to wit every one that forsook the law; and so they committed evils in the land; And drove the Israelites into secret places, even wheresoever they could flee for succour. Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side; And burnt incense at the doors of their houses, and in the streets. And when they had rent in pieces the books of the law which they found, they burnt them with fire. And whosoever was found with any the book of the testament, or if any committed to the law, the king’s commandment was, that they should put him to death. Thus did they by their authority unto the Israelites every month, to as many as were found in the cities. Now the five and twentieth day of the month they did sacrifice upon the idol altar, which was upon the altar of God. At which time according to the commandment they put to death certain women, that had caused their children to be circumcised. And they hanged the infants about their necks, and rifled their houses, and slew them that had circumcised them. Howbeit many in Israel were fully resolved and confirmed in themselves not to eat any unclean thing. Wherefore the rather to die, that they might not be defiled with meats, and that they might not profane the holy covenant: so then they died. And there was very great wrath upon Israel.”

Here was a man – a Greek – who seems to carry many of the characteristics of the Roman Antichrist. He was revealed to Daniel about 300 years before his birth. He did exactly as the prophesy declared. However, he is not the same “little horn” who was described in the last chapter. There has been a Greek very much like the Antichrist, but there will be yet another.

“And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision. Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright. And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power. And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.”

We are not the least bit surprised that Daniel was very disturbed by these revelations. Those who are alive and upon earth with the Antichrist appears, will be even more terrified. “And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.” I believe that we have access to much more information about this final little horn. And we will get to that at a later date.