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The Ram and the He Goat (Daniel Chapter 8)

Daniel's last vision two years earlier dealt with the four great world empires ending with the coming of Christ under the Roman Empire.  Starting with the Babylonian Empire, then moving forward until Daniel saw a great many disturbing details about the fourth beast in his dream.

The earlier revelation was in the form of a dream while this one was a vision he had while wide awake.  It is important to note that Daniel was an elderly man at this point in his life.  Assuming he was 13 years old at the time of his deportation from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, he was at this time about 69 to 70 years of age. 

Daniel lived through, to date, one of the most turbulent periods in Israelite history.  Nebuchadnezzar finally destroyed Jerusalem because her kings kept rebelling against his authority.  The temple was utterly destroyed and burned in order to retrieve the gold from its stonework.  The vessels of worship were all carried away with many of them destroyed.  Daniel personally saw his home city of Jerusalem besieged and overthrown.  He then saw the Babylonian Empire conqyered and taken into the Medo-Persian Empire.  How frightening and unsettling it must be to have one's country overthrown.  Even if it is a wicked and cruel one, there is no guarantee that the next one will be any better.  Add to that experience having one's place of worship for centuries utterly destroyed.  We must keep in mind here that we today are blessed beyond measure.  The death of Jesus Christ made it possible for Christians today to worship God anywhere.  His great sacrifice on behalf of man replaced the sacrifices under the Levitical system of worship.  The Israelites had to sacrifice in the temple.  Without the temple, there could be no animal sacrifices.

And if that were not enough, it is almost certain that Daniel lived the lonely life of a eunuch under the royal service of whatever king reigned over the land at the time.  His faithfulness to God is all the more notable in consideration of the conditions under which he lived his whole life. 

Daniel's lifelong ambition was to see his people recommit themselves to God and to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple and resume the worship of the one true and living God.  Daniel was chosen by God to prophecy of the coming of the one kingdom which would never fall and to prophecy of the coming king who would reign forever, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Before the coming of the Messiah, Daniel's people had more hardship to endure.  The turmoil of falling nations and rise of cruel leaders was not over.  While Daniel was blessed to see the prophecies of the coming Messiah and His kingdom, he also had to bear the burden of the prophecies of the afflictions of his countrymen at the hands of evil and cruel tyrants yet to come.  Daniel knew these prophecies were real.  He knew the things he saw in these visions would come to pass.  He had seen the visions of the things that would befall the kings of Babylon, interpreted them and saw them come to pass.  Daniel was not living under any allusion that his people would avert the disasters that awaited them in this next vision. 

Before going to the text we should pause to reflect on the power of divine prophecy in the validation of our faith.  Man cannot see into the future.  At best, man can only predict future happenings based on the observation of circumstances and conditions visible at the time.  But only God can look down the road of time and reveal with 100% accuracy events that will happen centuries in the future.  Only God can name the names of future kingdoms and leaders such as Cyrus.  And those then, and today, who would deny the existence of God must explain how someone like Daniel could prophecy with such startling accuracy the rise of men like Alexander the Great and Antiochus IV who, centuries later, would rise to power and perform exactly as revealed, those things written of by the prophets.  These visions of Daniel are called prophecy, but that word suggests a prediction of sorts.  Prophecy is more than that.  Prophecy, first and foremost is a divine and irrefutable demonstration of the power of God, and secondly is quite simply the foretelling of events which are certain.  Prophecy is not in any way a prediction of future events, it is the revelation of events that are sure and that will come to pass.  

Daniel 8:1
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.

About two years after the first revelation that appeared to Daniel, he received another one.  This happened in the third year of king Belshazzar who was the son and co-regent of his father Nabonidus.  Daniel had this vision in about 550 BC.  History records that Cyrus the great established the Persian Empire and began reigning in 550 BC.  Belshazzar was made co-regent of the Babylonian Empire in 553 BC, just three years after Cyrus came to power.  The Lydian and the Babylonian Empires were overthrown and fell to the Medo-Persian Empire in about 539 BC.  Egypt fell to the Medo-Persian Empire under the rule of the son of Cyrus, Cambyses, in 525 BC. 

Daniel 8:2
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.

Daniel here states that he was in the palace at Shushan when he saw this vision.  Commentators are divided on whether Daniel's presence in Shushan was only within his vision or if he was literally in Shushan when he received the vision.  It is unlikely that the location of where Daniel found himself in the vision would be worthy of the level of detail recorded.  There can hardly be any apocalyptic significance regarding Daniel's location within the vision itself.  It is much more likely that Daniel was in Shushan when he received the vision.   This is a possible explanation of why Belshazzar did not know Daniel personally when he wanted to know the meaning of the hand writing on the wall.  Daniel may have been posted in Shushan by Nabonidus before Belshazzar became co-regent and Belshazzar merely never availed himself of any opportunity to acquaint himself with all of his servants.  In either event, whether Daniel served in Babylon or Shushan, it is a testament to Belshazzar's poor leadership that he did not even know who Daniel was.  Verse 27 reveals that Daniel was in the service of the king.  Belshazzar obviously did not know who all his chief servants were. 

Shushan (Susa), was located some two hundred and forty miles to the east of Babylon in present day southwestern Iran.  It was the ancient capital of Elam.  During Daniel's time it was a holding of the Babylonian Empire but afterwards it became a royal residence and the capital of the Persian Empire (Nehemiah 1:1). The site is present-day Shush, about 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf.

Shushan was an ancient city and long before the time of Abraham, Shushan was the center of Elamite civilization. Some scholars believe it was a cult city centering around worship of one of the chief Elamite gods. The city had frequent contacts with Mesopotamia.

The Assyrian King Ashurbanipal, or Asnapper in Ezra 4:10, led a military campaign against Shushan about 642 - 639 BC.  In about 640 BC. he sacked the city and carried some of its inhabitants (Susanchites, Ezra 4:9, KJV) into exile in Samaria (V 10).

When Cyrus the Great who reigned from 550 to 529 BC., and established the Persian Empire, he made Shushan its capital. At Shushan, Darius the Great who ruled from about 521 to 486 BC., built his royal palace. This same palace was occupied by Artaxerxes II, also known as Ahasuerus (404- 359 BC.), who was the king of Medo-Persia and husband to Esther.  Most of the events recorded in the Book of Esther took place in Shushan (Esther 1:2-5; 2:3-8; 3:15; 4:8-16; 8:14-15; 9:6-18).

Daniel 8:3 
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.

Very helpful in this vision is the fact that Gabriel explained it to Daniel (Daniel 8:17).  There can be no mistaking who the ram with the two horns are, "The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia" (Daniel 8:20).

The term "Horn" in the East is the symbol of power, strength and royalty.

"One was higher than the other ... the higher came up last."  Persia, which was of little note until Cyrus' time, became then ascendant over Media, the more ancient kingdom. Darius was 62 years old (Daniel 5:31) when he began to reign; during his short reign of 2 years, being a weak king (Daniel 6:7,14,17), the government was almost entirely in Cyrus' hands.  Hence, Herodotus does not mention Darius, but Xenophon does, under the name of Cyaxares II. The "ram" here corresponds to the "Breast and his arms of silver" in Daniel 2:32, and the "bear" in Daniel 7:5, symbolizing bravery, overwhelming strength and force.  Cyrus then was the horn which rose higher and came up last after Darius. 

As a point of historical interest, the king of Persia wore a jeweled ram's head of gold instead of a diadem, such as are seen on the pillars at Persepolis which means 'The city of the Persians'.  Also the Hebrew word for ram, which means strong and brave, springs from the same root as "Elam," or Persia. The "one horn higher than the other" answers to the bear "raising itself on one side" as seen in Daniel 7:5.

Daniel 8:4 
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.

The ram pushing in three different directions, westward, northward, and southward corresponds with The bear's having three ribs in his mouth as seen in Daniel 7:5.  The directions which the Medo-Persian Empire advanced are:

Westward conquering Babylon, Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor including Lydia.

Northward conquering  Colchis, Armenia, Iberia and the dwellers on the Caspian sea.

Southward conquering Judea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya and also India, under Darius. 

The vision did not show any eastward advancement of the Medo-Persian Empire and well it wouldn't.  They themselves came from the east.  In Isaiah 46:11, referencing the Medo-Persians, they are portrayed as "a ravenous bird from the east".

And this world empire did indeed become great in that they were quite powerful, amassing vast territory and wealth.  The Medo-Persian Empire extended from the Indus River to the east to Thrace on the Northwest bordering Macedonia.  It encompassed all the territory bordered by and between the Caspian Sea, the Red Sea, the Arabian sea, the Persian Gulf, The Mediterranean and the Black Sea.  In sheer land mass it was far bigger than the Babylonian Empire, encompassing all of it as well as Egypt and Lydia (Asia Minor). 

Daniel 8:5 
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.

As with the ram with the two horns, we are not left with any doubt as to the identity of the "he goat".  It is positively identified by Gabriel in Verse 21, "And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king".  The first king of Greece as a world empire was Alexander the Great otherwise known as Alexander III of Macedon. 

Alexander assumed the kingship of Macedon following the death of his father Philip II, who had unified most of the city-states of mainland Greece under Macedonian supremacy in a federation called the League of Corinth.   The decisive battle of Philip's conquest of Greece occurred in 338 BC at Chaeronea in Boeotia, when Philip beat the Athenians and their allies. The military feat that won the battle that day was a cavalry charge by his son, Alexander, who was only eighteen years old at the time.  When Alexander's father died in 336 BC at an assassin's hand, Alexander quickly consolidated his power and set out to conquer the world at the age of twenty-one.

In 334 BC, Alexander crossed over into Asia Minor to begin a conquest of Persia. The Persian Empire covered most of the known world: Asia Minor, the Middle East, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Iran.  Alexander's army numbered about thirty thousand infantry and only five thousand cavalry. He had no navy and he had no money. 

Alexander moved quickly to gain a few sure victories, so he could gain money and supplies. He first focused on the coastal cities so that he could gain control of the ports.  By doing that, the Persian navy had no place to make landfall. After cutting off the Persian navy, he took his conquest into the mainland of Asia Minor.  Alexander was a ferocious warrior and accompanied his soldiers into the thickest parts of the battles.  His troops grew intensely loyal to him as a result of his personal involvement in the hand to hand combat. 

He quickly overran Asian Minor after defeating the Persian forces that controlled the territory, and after seizing all the coastal cities, he turned inland towards Syria in 333 BC. There he engaged the main Persian army under the leadership of king Darius.  Alexander personally led a cavalry charge against him at a city called Issus.  The Persians were a much larger force but were defeated anyway and they retreated towards Mesopotamia and left Alexander free to continue south. Alexander then seized the coastal towns along the Phoenician and Palestinian coasts. After that, he continued south and conquered Egypt.

Alexander then moved down the Phoenican coast and conquered the city of Tyre, which was the central headquarters of the Persian navy.  When Tyre fell, Darius realized he would be unable to defeat Alexander and offered to give him all of the Persian Empire west of the Euphrates River, hoping to keep Mesopotamia, Persia and the northern territories.

Alexander refused the offer and in 331 BC, he crossed the Euphrates river into Mesopotamia. Darius met him near the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, the city that had been destroyed by the Chaldeans only three centuries earlier and was defeated by Alexander's smaller force. In January of 330 BC, Alexander conquered Babylon which was the wealthiest city of the Persian Empire.  Alexander, who had started with almost no resources had at his disposal the royal treasury of the Persian Empire.  The fall of Babylon marked the end of the power of the Persian Empire.  After that, Alexander moved through the rest of the territory with relative ease. 

Having conquered what was then the known world, Alexander had pushed his army to the very limits of civilization as he knew it. But he saw that the world extended further and he wanted to go onward and everything he saw.  Alexander and his army pushed east, through Scythia (northern Iran), and all the way to what is today known as Pakistan and India. He had conquered Bactria at the foot of the western Himalayas, gained a huge Bactrian army, and married a Bactrian princess named Roxane. But when he tried to push on past Pakistan, his army grew tired, and he abandoned the eastward conquest in 327 BC.

In 324 BC, Alexander returned to Babylon. He was at that time, literally, king of the known world, and began to lay down his strategies for consolidating his new empire. But his plans were never carried out because in 323 BC, at the age of thirty-three, he contracted a fever and died. Upon his death, the Greek Empire fell into a civil war while his most powerful generals fought over the territories and it was divided up into four distinct kingdoms.

Alexander had dominated “the face of the whole earth" so rapidly that his feet seemed to never touch the ground.  The term, "the whole earth" is an apocalyptic figure for all of the known world to those who would first read Daniel's account.  In their perception, it was the whole earth.  Alexander and his armies moved so fast that he conquered the greater part of that world of antiquity which skirted the Mediterranean Sea by 327 BC.  Alexander began his reign in Macedonia in 336 BC.  Nine years later, he had successfully conquered all of the Medo-Persian Empire and brought it under Grecian rule.  This Grecian Empire, is the same as the “brass” of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two and the “leopard” of Daniel’s dream-vision of chapter seven. 

Daniel 8:6-7 
And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had there 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.

When Alexander came up against the Medo-Persian Empire, the horns of strength and power on the ram were broken.  The Ram was defeated, thrown to the ground and the figure is that Alexander stomped on him with his feet.  The picture here is one of Alexander's overwhelming defeat and overthrow of the Medo-Persian Empire.  None of the Medes nor the Persians could produce someone who could stop Alexander.  He defeated them all and in just 9 years he had swept across the face of the entire Medo-Persian Empire and it became the Grecian Empire identified by Gabriel in verse 21. 

Alexander's conquest of his empire was marked with a distinct strategy that was more prominent with his policies than with others before him.  Alexander instituted a policy of assimilating his empire into the Greek culture.  This was called Hellenism.  The word Hellenism is derived from the word, Hellene, which was the Greek word for the Greeks. The Hellenistic age was the age of the Greeks.  During this time, Greek culture, language and power extended itself across the known world. While the classical age of Greece produced great literature, poetry, philosophy, drama, and art, the conquering of the known world resulted in this culture being propagated throughout their territories.  Alexander actively exported Greek culture and language into the territories he conquered. This was a new idea  and this exporting of culture deeply influenced the civilizations that arose afterwards.  One notable difference was that most of the known world adopted the Greek language as their own.  The Hebrew old testament scriptures were eventually translated into Greek because the children of the old Israelites were raised speaking the Greek language.  They needed scriptures in a language they could read and understand.  This translation of the old testament Hebrew into Greek was known as the Septuagint. 

Daniel 8:8 
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.

Alexander "waxed very great", hence the title, 'Alexander the Great'.  History records that Alexander contracted a deadly fever and died in the city of Babylon in 323 BC in the height of his power.  Alexander's heir was, as yet unborn, and Alexander failed to set in place a regency to assure the ascension of his heir in the event of his death.  Alexander was quite young at this time and obviously had no idea he would take sick and die.     

Upon Alexander's death, there was almost immediately a dispute among his generals as to who his successor should be. General Meleager and the infantry supported the candidacy of Alexander's illegitimate half-brother named Arrhidaeus.  General Perdiccas, the leading cavalry commander, supported waiting until the birth of Alexander's child by Roxana.  A dispute arose over whether the child would be a male or not.   A compromise was arranged - Arrhidaeus (as Philip III) would become a figurehead king while Perdiccas would rule the empire as regent.  Alexander's direct heir would assume the throne if it was a boy.  And he was and was named Alexander IV, born in August of 323 BC. 

Perdiccas was assassinated by his senior officers in May or June of 321 or 320 BC.  Antipater was then named as the new regent over the empire. He brought with him Roxana to Macedon and gave up trying to rule supremely over the Empire and left it under the control of the diadochi.  Antipater died in 319 and he named Polyperchon, a Macedonian general who had served under both Alexander and his father, as his successor.   This move enraged Antipater's son, Cassender, and he allied himself with Ptolemy Soter, Antigonus and Eurydice who was the ambitious wife of king Philip Arrhidaeus, and declared war upon the regency under Polyperchon.  The Civil war that erupted went back and forth with both Cassender and Polyperchon defeating and being defeated by each other.  In 316, Cassender took Macedon again, and a peace treaty was signed which recognized Alexander IV as Alexander's rightful heir to the throne.  Cassender would rule as regent until his death when Alexander would then be old enough to assume the throne. 

After the peace treaty was signed, those opposed to Cassender started declaring that Alexander IV should assume the throne and that the regency was no longer necessary.  Cassender had both Roxana and the thirteen year old Alexander IV assasinated by poisoning.  Thus ended any hope of the Grecian Empire being ruled by any heir of Alexander the Great. 

There were more-or-less forty years of constant war between Alexander's generals, known as the Wars of the Diadochi, for the rule of his vast Empire. By about 281 BC the situation had stabilized, resulting in four major domains.  Gabriel made it clear to Daniel in verse 22 that the Grecian Empire would then be ruled by four kings, explaining the four notable horns.  Geographically, the four land-mass territories would eventually come to be:

1) Macedon and central Greece, on mainland Europe, under the rule of Cassender, the son of Antipater, the founder of the short-lived Antipatrid dynasty.  The Antigonid dynasty succeeded the Antipatrid headed by one of Alexander's generals, Antigonus I Monophthalmus.  He was a Macedonian nobleman, general, and satrap under Alexander the Great. During his early life he served under Alexander's father, Philip II, and he was a major figure in the Wars of the Diadochi (Generals), after Alexander's death, declaring himself king in 306 BC and establishing the Antigonid dynasty.

2)  Asia Minor, then called Anatolia ruled by the Attalid dynasty which ruled from the city of Pergamon after the death of Lysimachus who was one of Alexander's generals.  The Attalid kingdom was the remnant of the Lysimachian Empire.  One of Lysimachus' officers, Philetaerus, took control of the city in 282 BC. The later Attalids were descended from his father, and they expanded the city into a kingdom. Attalus I proclaimed himself King in the 230s BC, following his victories over the Galatians. The Attalids ruled Pergamon until Attalus III bequeathed the kingdom to the Roman Republic in 133 BC. 

3)  Babylonia and Syria under the rule of Seleucus I who established himself in Babylon in 312 BC.  After the death of Alexander, Seleucus was appointed as the satrap of Babylon in 323 BCE. Antigonus attacked Seleucus and forced him to flee from Babylon, but, supported by Ptolemy, he was able to return victorious in 312 BCE. Seleucus later went on to conquer the Persian and the Median territories. He formed an alliance with the Indian King Chandragupta Maurya. Seleucus defeated Antigonus in the battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE and Lysimachus in the battle of Corupedium in 281 BCE. He was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus during the same year. Seleucus' successor was his son Antiochus I, ancester of Antiochus IV Epiphanes who played prominently in this vision of Daniel.  Seleucus I was a Macedonian officer of Alexander the Great and one of his Diadochi (Generals). In the Wars of the Diadochi that took place after Alexander's death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and the Seleucid Empire.

4) Egypt under the rule of Ptolemy who was the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty and declared himself King Ptolemy I in 305 BC.  He was accepted by the Egyptians as the successor to the Pharoahs and his Dynasty lasted until the Roman conquest of 30 BC.  Alexandria was the capitol city.  His kingdom was the last holdout of Alexander's former empire to Roman conquest.

Daniel 8:9 
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.

Out of the lineage of Seleucus who's son was named Antiochus I, arose a man by the name of Antiochus IV, son of Antiochus III and Laodice III.  An interesting historical fact here is that the ancient city of Laodicea, where within was a church addressed by Jesus in Revelation, was named after the wife of Antiochus II who's name was also Laodice.  Earlier the city had been named Diospolis which meant 'city of Zeus'.  The worship of Zeus figured prominently in the actions of Antiochus IV. 

Antiochus IV’s father had taken Palestine from Ptolemy-Egypt but in later conflicts with the expanding interests of Rome which was coming to power, he was forced to surrender his minor footholds in Greece/Macedonia as well as in Asia Minor.  Furthermore, under a treaty drawn up by Rome in 188 BC at his request, he was required by the treaty to surrender to the Roman republic all his possessions west of Tarsus, pay for the expenses of the war, keep no more than 12 ships and deliver twelve hostages, including one if his own sons to secure his performance of the peace terms.  The son he delivered was none other than Antiochus IV.  He spent 12 years as a hostage in Rome before he was exchanged for his nephew Demetrius I Soter who was the son and heir of King Seleucus. Seleucus was later assasinated by a usurper named Heliodorus.  Antiochus IV in turn ousted Heliodorus and seized the throne from the true heir, Demetrius I Soter, who earlier replaced him as a hostage in Rome.  He then proclaimed himself co-regent for another son of Seleucus who was an infant also named Antiochus, whom he then murdered a few years later.

Antiochus IV had visions and ambitions of restoring the kingdom of Seleucid-Syria to its former glory and power.  He sought to unify the multi-cultured population, including the Jews, under a vigorous program of Hellenization which would include common laws, common cultural practices and a common religion, especially for the supremacy of the Olympian pagan god named Zeus.  The Israelites had learned their lesson about the worship of false gods under their Babylonian captivity and as a whole would refuse to accept that aspect of Antiochus' Hellenization policy.

In Jerusalem, two priestly brothers were in public political dispute.  Onias III who was strictly Orthodox and the hereditary high priest, favored the more lenient Ptolemy-Egyptian policy to Antiochus' policy of imposed Hellenization while Joshua, also known by the Greek name Jason, favored the policies of Antiochus.  Antiochus chose to try and settle this dispute by appointing Jason as high priest and then arresting his brother, Onias III and taking him to Antioch as a prisoner in 174 BC.

As high priest in Jerusalem, Jason favored Antiochus who increased his authority beyond that of religious matters into more civil power.  In return, Jason agreed to pay more financial tribute, which Antiochus needed, and to also promote a stepped-up Hellenization program, which the king wanted.  As a result of this, the Jewish priesthood and Sanhedrin were replaced by a Greek city state form of constitutional government, known as the "polis", which in other places had been the Key to forced Hellenization. 

Jason’s plan was going along nicely until his aid, and brother, Menelaus, went to Antiochus with the finances promising more tribute money and reinforced Hellenization programs if he were appointed high priest in Jerusalem.  By this time, there was also an increasing number of Jewish nobility who favored Hellenism for political and economic reasons.  This was exactly what Antiochus wanted so Menelaus was appointed as the high priest in Jerusalem in 171 BC.  Jason fled Jerusalem and Menelaus took temple vessels and treasury money to pay the increased tribute money to Antiochus.  Faithful Jews were outraged and Onias III protested.  Menelaus then arranged to have Onias slain to silence his protests.  Jason however survived and did not forget the treachery of Menelaus.

Despite the resistance of the faithful Jews, Antiochus was growing in power.  He learned of a pending invasion effort from Ptolemy-Egypt.  As a defensive move, he therefore marched on Egypt, defeated and divided it into rival territories He then appointed Ptolemy VI in Memphis and Ptolemy VIII in Alexandria as his client kings.  Leaving them behind to deal with each other, he returned to Syria with the money he was able to plunder from them.  After this conquest he started having visions of being another Alexander and taking Egypt completely under Syrian rule and then going on from there to conquer the rest of Alexander's old empire.  In 169 BC, Antiochus assumed the designation of “Epiphany” which meant “god manifest", and issued propaganda coins reflecting himself in the form of the god Zeus.

While Antiochus was planning world conquest elsewhere, matters were again heating up in Jerusalem!  An internal eruption arose between the Jewish factions over Menelaus’ plundering the temple, causing a revolt from the faithful Jews.  Jason, seeing an opportunity to regain his seat as the Jewish high priest, came out of hiding, gathered his own supporters, and attacked Menelaus.  This resulted in Menelaus fleeing and taking refuge in the Syrian stronghold of Acra in Jerusalem.  Jason then massacred followers of Menelaus as well as the faithful Jews, but this backfired on him and he was forced to retreat once again. 

Antiochus saw this Jewish uproar as an insurrection against his own authority.  He sought out Menelaus, and with military force he moved upon Jerusalem, slaughtering hundreds, desecrating the temple, and reinstated Menelaus as his appointed high priest for the Jews.  The faithful Jews were on the verge of revolt but were unable to overcome Antiochus superior military might.

Antiochus had distractions from another source.  Ptolemy VI and VIII had made an alliance with Egypt.  But before they became a threat and attempted an attack on Syria, Antiochus again invaded Egypt with the intent of bringing them under absolute Syrian rule.    However, the Ptolemies had appealed to the steadily rising powers of Rome for intervention.  Egypt had a rich grain supply which the Romans could use so they were interested in helping the Ptolemies out for a price. 

In 168 BC Antiochus led a second attack on Egypt and also sent a fleet to capture Cyprus. Before reaching Alexandria, his path was blocked by a single, old Roman ambassador named Gaius Popillius Laenas, who delivered a message from the Roman Senate ordering Antiochus to withdraw his armies from Egypt and Cyprus, or consider themselves in a state of war with the Roman Republic. Antiochus said he would discuss it with his council, whereupon the Roman envoy drew a line in the sand around him and said, "Before you cross this circle I want you to give me a reply for the Roman Senate" - implying that Rome would declare war if the King stepped out of the circle without committing to leave Egypt immediately. Weighing his options, Antiochus wisely decided to withdraw and returned to Syria in defeat and humiliation.   This is where the proverbial line drawn in the sand that cannot be crossed originated. 

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem a rumor spread that Antiochus was dead and a Jerusalem civil war broke out to cast off Hellenism. Having just been humiliated by the Romans and angry, Antiochus marched on Jerusalem while on his return to Syria.  In Palestine, and especially in Jerusalem, the Jews were about to experience his military fury.  He was mad and intended to take it out on the rebellious Jews who resisted Hellenization and remained faithful to God. 

Upon arriving at Jerusalem, he presented himself as the manifestation of the supreme god Zeus, and calling himself by the title “Epiphanies”.  He and his army arrived under the guise of peace but suddenly attacked Jerusalem on a Sabbath, slaughtered thousands, took women and children to be sold as slaves and then plundered the city, pulling down portions of its walls.  His own fortress of Acra, within the city, was reinforced.

In 167 BC he moved to suppress Judaism by destroying the synagogues and issuing the order that all scripture be destroyed.  He also forbade circumcision, Sabbath observance, scripture possession, Jewish sacrifices and the observances of their festivals.  Altars to Zeus were then set up and Jews were ordered to sacrifice swine upon them and to eat the meat as well.  All resistance carried the threat of the penalty of death.  The date was December 16, 167 BC.  The Jewish temple was then formally dedicated to the Olympian god Zeus,  An idol was erected therein with an altar over the top of the temple alter and swine were offered on it to Zeus.  Furthermore, monthly offerings were to be made on the 25th, the birthday of Antiochus.  All this was viewed by Daniel as “the transgression of desolation" in verse 13 and the "abomination that maketh desolate" in Daniel 11:31.

Jews who refused were butchered while others fled from the city.  A priest by the name of Mattathias, refused to be a part of the pagan sacrifices and killed a fellow Jew who did.  He also killed the Syrian officer of the altar and took his family and fled to the surrounding hills outside Jerusalem.  These matters were what sparked the Maccabean wars of 167-164 BC.  This Jewish nationalism and Orthodox resistance was in response to Antiochus' demands to offer swine to Zeus and for what he did to the temple.  Mattathias was a major organizer of the Jewish revolt against Antiochus. 

Mattathias' son Judas, succeeded him in 166 BC.  He was was the leader of groups who attacked Antiochus' troops with guerilla warfare type tactics.  Against unbelievable odds, his strategy and tactics were masterful and very successful.  The family surname, also assumed by the Jewish forces, was 'Maccabee', meaning 'the hammer'.  Although there were many secular Jewish factions that favored Hellenism, there were legions of Jewish nationalist and faithful God fearing people who supported the Maccabean resistance.

In 165 BC, Antiochus suffered additional resistance to the east with Parthia and other revolts in Armenia and Persia.  Financial tributes were being withheld which presented a major drain on vital resources needed to wage war.   Antiochus, being distracted by these new developments, ordered Lysias to exterminate the Jews while he concentrated on the revolts in the east.  A large army was dispatched to do deal with the Jews but was defeated by a significantly smaller force of the Maccabeans under the lead of Judas.  The surviving Syrian army was forced to retreat and then Lysias personally led a larger force against Judas and was defeated again.

While Lysias was getting defeated by the Jews, Antiochus himself led the main Seleucid army against the Parthians.  He successfully subjugated them and reoccupied Armenia as well.  His success was short lived.  Judas overthrew Acra, then led the cleansing of the temple and its rededication to God.  Three years after its being intensely desecrated, the sacrifices were resumed on December 14, 164 BC.  Hence the annual “feast of dedication” (John 10:22).  Enraged and needing funds, Antiochus attempted to plunder the temple of “Nanaea” (“Artemis”) in Elymais.  Unsuccessful and barely escaping with his life, he soon became withdrawn.  Insane, he retreated to Persia in the late spring or early summer of 163 BC. Having contracted a disease of his bowels, he died an agonizing, painful death. 

His only heir was an infant son named Antiochus V Eupator.  The result was a series of civil wars between rival claimants to the throne, similar to the civil wars after the death of Alexander.  These civil wars crippled the Seleucid Empire during a critical phase in their wars against Parthia.  The empire continued its downward spiral in power and was finally made into a Roman province in 63 BC by the Roman republic military leader, Pompey who executed the remaining Seleucid princes thus ending the dynasty.

Daniel 8:10 
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.

As seen earlier, Antiochus grew in power.  The "host" is in reference to the Israelites.  Stars represented a major ruler or authority.  In this context, the stars which are cast down and stamped upon are probably in reference to the Jewish high priests and the Sanhedrin which were replaced as a result of the Hellenism of Jerusalem under Antiochus.   

Daniel 8:11 
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.

He stood up against God Himself.  Daniel 8:25, "he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes" and "against the God of gods" (Daniel 11:36).   Antiochus not only opposed God's people, the host, but also God Himself.  The "daily sacrifice" that "was taken away" is a key element in the identification of Antiochus with the little horn that came up from among the other four.  Jerusalem, being in the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus was the only historical figure that can be matched up with the little horn.  None of the other three empires had the opportunity to produce a suitable candidate.   History positively identifies Antiochus IV as the Seleucid king who did indeed take away the daily sacrifice by forbidding the Jews to worship God in the temple, later desecrating the temple by building an alter to Zeus and sacrificing swine on the alter.  

Daniel 8:12 
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.

The Jews were given over to Antiochus because of their transgressions against God.  Some of the Jews were acquiescing to the Hellenization of their culture.  They were accepting the change and even welcoming them into their culture.  They built a place of exercise and a gymnasium where they were reported to compete in the Greek games naked.  Moreover they forsook the holy covenant and the covenant of circumcision, becoming more and more like the Greeks.  The high priest Onias III was administering the law in godliness until his brother, Jason, who was pro-Antiochus was instated as high priest.  Onias III was imprisoned and Jason, his brother and successor, was betrayed by his aid who was appointed as high priest in exchange for a vigorous program of Hellenization.  The result was that many of the Jews went along with this and thus their transgression in this matter was the reason for the calamities that befell them as a result of Antiochus' cruelty.  

Daniel 8:13-14 
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.

In the vision, Daniel saw two saints, "holy ones" in the NKJV and ASV, discussing how long the transgression of desolation would go on.  How long would the sanctuary, which was one of the innermost sacred chambers in the temple, be trodden under the feet of the gentiles?  The answer was given directly to Daniel as if he had asked it. 

"two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."  A better translation of this verse would be from the ASV, "Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings (and) mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed".  This translation which is a more accurate rendering of the original Greek is much easier to harmonize with the historical facts.  Two thousand three hundred days is about 6 years, 3 months and 20 days.  Antiochus was in Jerusalem, on and off for a period of about 6 years.  But he did not desecrate the temple until  3 - 4 years before his death and the temple worship was reinstated before he died. 

Each evening and morning was a day.  It was that way in the creation account.  Here and evening and a morning is one day, therefore twenty three hundred evenings and mornings would equal one thousand, one hundred and fifty days, or 3 years, 1 month and 25 days. 

When Antiochus was sent home from Egypt by the old Roman ambassador named Gaius Popillius Laenas in humiliation and shame, he sent 22,000 men under the command of Apollonius to Jerusalem with orders to destroy it.  According to Josephus the following took place:

  1. Antiochus took possession of the city of Jerusalem.
  2. He vandalized the temple and left it bare.
  3. He forbade the Jews to offer their daily sacrifices.
  4. He burnt down many of their buildings.
  5. He built a citadel (Acra), in the lower part of the city, wherein the Hellenized Jews lived. 
  6. He built an idol of Zeus on the alter.
  7. He slew swine and offered them to Zeus on the alter in the temple.
  8. He compelled the Jews to forsake the order of worship.
  9. He compelled the Jews to raise idol alters in every city and village and to offer swine on them every day.
  10. He forbade circumcision
  11. He caused those who refused to adhere to his instructions to be whipped with rods and then torn apart. 
  12. He caused women caught with circumcised babies to be strangled with their sons hung around their necks.
  13. he had every copy of the Law of Moses destroyed that could be found. 

All of this happened in 167 BC.  According to Josephus, "on the five and twentieth day of the month of Casleu, they [the Jews], lighted the lamps that were on the candlestick, and offered incense upon the alter [of incense], and laid loaves upon the table [of the shewbread], and offered burnt offerings upon the new alter [of burnt offering].  Now it so fell out, that these things were done on the very same day on which their divine worship had fallen off, and was reduced to a profane and common use, after three years time, for so it was, that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years".  Josephus records three years, history records a time of between 3 and 4 years, Inspiration says 3 years, 1 month and 25 days, or more precisely, Two thousand, three hundred evenings and mornings. 

The cleansing and rededication of the temple was a feat in itself. The altar of the Olympian Zeus was destroyed.  The alter being desecrated with the blood of swine was rebuilt with new stones.  The damage to the temple was repaired.  It was meticulously cleaned.  A priest was selected who had remained faithful to God throughout the period of the abomination of desolations.  Thus on December 14, 164 BC., exactly three years after its desecration, the temple was rededicated and the daily sacrifices were restored. This event marked the beginning of the Jewish Feast of Dedication or Lights (Hanukkah).  This feast was referenced in the New Testament in John 10:22:23 where Jesus was in attendance at the feast of dedication in Jerusalem. 

Daniel 8:15-16 
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.

It was important for Daniel to understand this vision.  Without this, its meaning would be shrouded from those yet to live who desperately needed to know this information.  Many Jews succumbed to the Hellenization of their culture and paid a heavy price for it.  Antiochus declared himself as god manifest, Zeus in particular, and tried to force the children of God to worship idols of this false Olympian Deity.  Antiochus IV would have a 1st century counterpart who would do the same thing for the same reasons.  Both leaders sought forced loyalty.  The Jews under Antiochus needed to know what was coming and why, and the Christians living under Emperor Domitian of Imperial Rome needed to be able to look back and see what the consequences were for allowing themselves to be naturalized to a pagan culture. 

God never did, won't and never will tolerate pagan worship no matter what the circumstances may be.  Even to the point of death are the children of God expected to remain faithful.  And those who would live through this type of persecution were warned over and over.  The application for us today is no different.  There are no circumstances under which it would be acceptable to God for his children today to cleave to another culture and seek to fit in, and to accept false worship under any circumstances up to and including their deaths.  God was serious when He said "whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4).

Daniel 8:17-19 
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.

Daniel was not a young man when he had this vision.  The emotional stress coupled with his age had to leave him exhausted and distraught.  Daniel may not at this time fully understand the vision, but he knew enough to realize that his countrymen were going to suffer horribly sometime in the future.  One could only imagine the anxiety and stress associated with seeing such a vision and having one such as Gabriel in their presence.  Gabriel touched Daniel and set him upright and informed him that the vision he had just had would be further explained. 

Daniel 8:20 
The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.

Cyrus, the Persian and Darius the Mede. 

Daniel 8:21 
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

Daniel 8:22 
Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.

Alexander died suddenly with no heir and no regent appointed for his unborn child.  The generals of Alexander fought over the empire and it ended up split into four main kingdoms.  "Not in his power" means they would never be as powerful as Alexander was.  

Daniel 8:23 
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 in the years approaching the final downfall of the Grecian Empire, when the transgressions of the Jews and the Gentiles who were Hellenizing them became more than God would endure, a king, Antiochus IV, arose to power.  And he was ruthless and cruel, and he was skilled in intrigue and treachery.  Such was the character of Antiochus IV who came to power due to his deceitfulness and betrayal of his own family.  The throne rightly belonged to Demetrius Soter, a son of Seleucus IV Philopator, but Antiochus IV Epiphanes seized the throne and had himself proclaimed king. Thus he did not come to the throne by rightful succession; he seized it through intrigue.

Daniel 8:24 
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.

Antiochus would be very powerful, but not by his own doing.  God granted him that power for a divine purpose.  He would destroy people to an extraordinary degree and thereby prosper from the plunder of his victims.  And he did indeed destroy the mighty and the holy people.  History records that when he descended on Jerusalem after his humiliation in Egypt that he destroyed over 80,000 Israelites and took that many more into slavery.  Those who refused his religious demands were executed in a most horrible fashion.  Antiochus IV was truly a ruthless individual.  After studying this man, it is impossible not to see him in these apocalyptic lines.  These descriptions paint a picture of a horrible man, bent on the annihilation of God's people. 

Daniel 8:25 
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 through his policy of Hellenization he will cause deceit and treachery to succeed.  As evidenced in his participation with the treacherous high priests, he demonstrated that he would promote evil men who were deceitful if he thought it would serve his purpose.  He magnified himself in his heart to the degree that he pronounced himself "God Manifest". 

"and by peace shall destroy many",  Declaring peace and then destroying many is exactly what he did to the Jews when he came to destroy them.  He approached Jerusalem under the guise of peace and attacked them on the sabbath day and laid Jerusalem waste in a slaughterhouse of carnage.

"he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes", He indeed opposed the Prince of princes when he built an idol of Zeus over the alter in the temple and sacrificed a pig on it to show his contempt for the Jews and for God. 

"but he shall be broken without hand",  God will break (or destroy) him without the help of any human being.  Antiochus contracted some kind of disease which consumed him from within his bowels.  The disease was said to be so awful that it caused him to smell badly and nobody could bear to carry him on his litter.  He died in agony, insane, defeated in Babylon and with the knowledge that God's people, the Israelites, had been raised again to a position of power.  When Antiochus died, his opposition to the Jews ceased, and their land again had peace and rest.

Daniel 8:26 
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.

Daniel proclaims that the vision he received was true.  He was then told to Keep a record of it, that it may be preserved and that the fulfillment of it might be noted at a later date in the future.  This is significant thing that was told to Daniel here.  He was told to seal up the vision because it would not be realized for many days.  The year of this vision was about 550 BC.  Antiochus died in 164 or 163 BC.  Different sources give different years for his death.  This prophecy of Daniel would see its fulfillment almost four centuries later.  In Revelation, John was told not to seal up the prophecy because the time was "at hand" (Revelation 22:10).  Proponents of millennialism based on the prophecies of Revelation should take note of this fact and reconsider their beliefs.  

Daniel 8:27 
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.

The aged prophet has just seen a vision that spanned four centuries of time.  The plight of his countrymen was dire indeed.  At the time of this vision, he and most of his nation were in captivity in Babylon, living under the rule of a cruel despot.  The temple lay in ruins back in what was left of Jerusalem.  And in this vision, Daniel sees that the temple will again be defiled and the worship of the Jews forbidden.  While the vision foretold the fall of Antiochus and cleansing of the temple, the road that had to be traveled in order to reach that point was hard.  This was not a happy vision for the aged prophet to have to see, consider and record.  It is entirely understandable that he was sick for a few days.  Daniel loved his people and he loved God and he wanted more than anything to see his people at rest and at peace within Jerusalem, worshipping and serving God faithfully and prospering. 

But like a true man of God, Daniel recovered himself and returned to his duties for the king.  Daniel was astonished at the vision but did not completely understand it.  But he comprehended what God wanted him to know and he understood that God wanted him to record it and this Daniel did faithfully. 

Daniel Chapter 8 Paraphrase

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, two years after the one that appeared to me in the first year of his reign. This time I was at Susa, the capital in the province of Elam, standing beside the Ulai River.  As I was watching, I saw a ram with two long horns standing on the riverbank; and as I watched, one of these horns began to grow, so that it was longer than the other.  The ram butted everything out of its way, and no one could stand against it or help its victims.  It did as it pleased and became very great.

And while I was watching the ram, a he-goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, and he moved so swiftly his feet never touched the ground.  This goat had a prominent and remarkable horn between his eyes.  And he came to the ram that had the two horns which I had seen standing on the bank of the river and ran at him and attacked him.  He struck the ram and broke his two horns and the ram was powerless to stand before him.  So the goat threw him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was no one who could rescue the ram from his attack.

The goat became both proud and powerful, but suddenly, at the height of his power, his horn was broken, and in its place grew four large horns  pointing in four directions.  And then out from these horns grew another horn, a fifth, which soon became very strong and attacked the south and east, and warred against the land of Israel.

He fought against the people of God and defeated some of their leaders. He even challenged the Prince of heaven by forbidding the daily sacrifices offered to him and by defiling his Temple.  But he was permitted to do this because of the transgression of God's people.  As a result, truth and righteousness were cast down, and evil prospered for a time. 

Then I heard two of the holy angels speaking to each other and one of them said, "How long will it be until the daily sacrifice is restored again? How long until the destruction of the Temple is avenged and God's people triumph?" The other replied to me, "Twenty-three hundred evenings and mornings must first pass, then the temple shall be cleansed and restored. 

As I was trying to understand the meaning of this vision, suddenly someone who looked like a man was standing in front of me and then I heard a man's voice calling from across the river, "Gabriel, help Daniel understand the vision he just saw".  So Gabriel started toward me, but as he approached, I was too frightened to stand and fell down with my face to the ground. "Son of man," he said, "you must understand that the events you have seen in your vision pertains to the time of the end of the abomination of desolation." Then I fainted, lying face downward on the ground.  But he roused me with a touch and helped me to my feet saying  "I am here to tell you what is going to happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be".

"The two horns of the ram you saw are the kings of Media and Persia.  The rough male goat is the nation of Greece, and its long horn represents the first great king of that country. When you saw the horn break off and four smaller horns replace it, this meant that the Grecian Empire will break into four sections with four kings but none of them would be as great as he was."

"Toward the end of their kingdoms, when they and the children of God have fully transgressed God, a fearsome king shall rise to power with great shrewdness and intelligence.  His power shall be mighty, but his strength is not his own.  Prospering wherever he turns, he will destroy all who oppose him, though their armies be mighty, and he will devastate God's people."

"He will be a master of deception, defeating many by catching them off guard when they least expect it. Without warning he will destroy them. So great will he glorify himself that he will even defy the God of heaven but in so doing he will seal his own doom, for he shall be broken by God with no help from the hand of man whatsoever."

"And then in your vision you saw the passing of many mornings and the evenings before this would come to pass.  This is the truth so record it and keep it that it may be preserved, for it shall be many days before this comes to pass."

Then I grew faint and was sick for several days. Afterward I recovered and was up and around again and performed my duties for the king, but I was greatly distressed by the dream and did not completely understand it.

 

 

 


A Textual Study on Daniel

Introduction to Daniel (Chapter 1)

Daniel's Vision of the Four Kingdoms (Daniel Chapter 7)

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream  (Daniel Chapter 2)

The Ram and the He Goat (Daniel Chapter 8)
Nebuchadnezzar's Fiery Furnace (Daniel Chapter 3) Daniel's Prayer For Deliverance (Daniel Chapter 9:1-19)
Nebuchadnezzar's Testimony of God (Daniel chapter 4) Daniel and the Seventy Weeks Prophecy (Daniel Chapter 9:20-27)
Belshazzar Saw the Writing on the Wall  (Daniel Chapter 5) Daniel's Vision of the Jewish Latter Days Part 1 (Daniel 10)
Daniel and the Lion's Den (Daniel Chapter 6) Jewish Destiny in their latter days (Daniel 11)
The End of the Jewish Latter Days  (Daniel 12)
Historical Timeline for Daniel

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Genesis 22:17-18

That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.