Daniel's vision of the ram and the he-goat. (1-14) The interpretation of it. (15-27)
Verses 1-14 God gives Daniel a foresight of the destruction of other kingdoms, which in their day were as powerful as that of Babylon. Could we foresee the changes that shall be when we are gone, we should be less affected with changes in our own day. The ram with two horns was the second empire, that of Media and Persia. He saw this ram overcome by a he-goat. This was Alexander the Great. Alexander, when about thirty-three years of age, and in his full strength, died, and showed the vanity of worldly pomp and power, and that they cannot make a man happy. While men dispute, as in the case of Alexander, respecting the death of some prosperous warrior, it is plain that the great First Cause of all had no more of his plan for him to execute, and therefore cut him off. Instead of that one great horn, there came up four notable ones, Alexander's four chief captains. A little horn became a great persecutor of the church and people of God. It seems that the Mohammedan delusion is here pointed out. It prospered, and at one time nearly destroyed the holy religion God's right hand had planted. It is just with God to deprive those of the privileges of his house who despise and profane them; and to make those know the worth of ordinances by the want of them, who would not know it by the enjoyment of them. Daniel heard the time of this calamity limited and determined; but not the time when it should come. If we would know the mind of God, we must apply to Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; not hid from us, but hid for us. There is much difficulty as to the precise time here stated, but the end of it cannot be very distant. God will, for his own glory, see to the cleansing of the church in due time. Christ died to cleanse his church; and he will so cleanse it as to present it blameless to himself.
Verses 15-27 The eternal Son of God stood before the prophet in the appearance of a man, and directed the angel Gabriel to explain the vision. Daniel's fainting and astonishment at the prospect of evils he saw coming on his people and the church, confirm the opinion that long-continued calamities were foretold. The vision being ended, a charge was given to Daniel to keep it private for the present. He kept it to himself, and went on to do the duty of his place. As long as we live in this world we must have something to do in it; and even those whom God has most honoured, must not think themselves above their business. Nor must the pleasure of communion with God take us from the duties of our callings, but we must in them abide with God. All who are intrusted with public business must discharge their trust uprightly; and, amidst all doubts and discouragements, they may, if true believers, look forward to a happy issue. Thus should we endeavour to compose our minds for attending to the duties to which each is appointed, in the church and in the world.
Daniel 8:1-27 . VISION OF THE RAM AND HE-GOAT: THE TWENTY-THREE HUNDRED DAYS OF THE SANCTUARY BEING TRODDEN DOWN.
With this chapter the Hebrew part of the book begins and continues to be the language of the remainder; the visions relating wholly to the Jews and Jerusalem. The scene here narrows from world-wide prophecies to those affecting the one covenant-people in the five centuries between the exile and the advent. Antichrist, like Christ, has a more immediate future, as well as one more remote. The vision, the eighth chapter, begins, and that, the tenth through twelfth chapters, concludes, the account of the Antichrist of the third kingdom. Between the two visions the ninth chapter is inserted, as to Messiah and the covenant-people at the end of the half millennium (seventy weeks of years).
1. vision--a higher kind of revelation than a dream.
after that . . . at the first--that in Daniel 7:1 .
2. Shushan--Susa. Though then comparatively insignificant, it was destined to be the capital of Persia after Cyrus' time. Therefore Daniel is transported into it, as being the capital of the kingdom signified by the two-horned ram ( Nehemiah 1:1 , Esther 1:2-5 ).
Elam--west of Persia proper, east of Babylonia, south of Media. Daniel was not present there personally, but in vision.
Ulai--called in PLINY Euloeus; by the Greeks, Choaspes. Now Kerah, or Karasu. So in Daniel 10:4 he receives a vision near another river, the Hiddekel. So Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 1:1 ) at the Chebar. Perhaps because synagogues used to be built near rivers, as before praying they washed their hands in the water [ROSENMULLER], ( Psalms 137:1 ).
3. two horns--The "two" ought not to be in italics, as if it were not in the original; for it is expressed by the Hebrew dual. "Horn" in the East is the symbol of power and royalty.
one . . . higher than . . . other . . . the higher came up last--Persia, which was of little note till Cyrus' time, became then ascendant over Media, the more ancient kingdom. Darius was sixty-two years old ( Daniel 5:31 ) when he began to reign; during his short reign of two years, being a weak king ( Daniel 6:1-3 ), 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 "bear" ( Daniel 7:5 ), symbolizing clumsy firmness. The king of Persia wore a jewelled ram's head of gold instead of a diadem, such as are seen on the pillars at Persepolis. Also the Hebrew for "ram" springs from the same root as "Elam," or Persia [NEWTON]. The "one horn higher than the other" answers to the bear "raising itself on one side"
4. ram pushing westward--Persia conquered westward Babylon, Mesopotamia, Syria, Asia Minor.
northward--Colchis, Armenia, Iberia, and the dwellers on the Caspian Sea.
southward--Judea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya; also India, under Darius. He does not say eastward, for the Persians themselves came from the east ( Isaiah 46:11 ).
did according to his will--( Daniel 11:3 Daniel 11:16 ; compare Daniel 5:19 ).
notable horn--Alexander. "Touched not . . . ground," implies the incredible swiftness of his conquests; he overran the world in less than twelve years. The he-goat answers to the leopard ( Daniel 7:6 ). Caranus, the first king of Macedonia, was said to have been led by goats to Edessa, which he made the seat of his kingdom, and called Æge, that is, "goat-city."
6. standing before the river--Ulai. It was at the "river" Granicus that Alexander fought his first victorious battle against Darius, 334 B.C.
7. moved with choler--Alexander represented the concentrated wrath of Greece against Persia for the Persian invasions of Greece; also for the Persian cruelties to Greeks, and Darius' attempts to seduce Alexander's soldiers to treachery [NEWTON].
stamped upon him--In 331 B.C. he defeated Darius Codomanus, and in 330 burned Persepolis and completed the conquest of Persia.
none . . . could deliver--Not the immense hosts of Persia could save it from the small army of Alexander ( Psalms 33:16 ).
8. when he was strong . . . great horn was broken--The empire was in full strength at Alexander's death by fever at Babylon, and seemed then least likely to fall. Yet it was then "broken." His natural brother, Philip Aridoeus, and his two sons, Alexander Ægus and Hercules, in fifteen months were murdered.
four . . . toward . . . four winds--Seleucus, in the east, obtained Syria, Babylonia, Media, &c.; Cassander, in the west, Macedon Thessaly, Greece; PTOLEMY, in the south, Egypt, Cyprus, &c.; Lysimachus, in the north, Thrace, Cappadocia, and the north parts of Asia Minor.
9. little horn--not to be confounded with the little horn of the fourth kingdom in Daniel 7:8 . The little horn in Daniel 7:8 comes as an eleventh horn after ten preceding horns. In Daniel 8:9 it is not an independent fifth horn, after the four previous ones, but it arises out of one of the four existing horns. This horn is explained ( Daniel 8:23 ) to be "a king of fierce countenance," &c. Antiochus Epiphanes is meant. Greece with all its refinement produces the first, that is, the Old Testament Antichrist. Antiochus had an extraordinarly love of art, which expressed itself in grand temples. He wished to substitute Zeus Olympius for Jehovah at Jerusalem. Thus first heathen civilization from below, and revealed religion from above, came into collision. Identifying himself with Jupiter, his aim was to make his own worship universal (compare Daniel 8:25 with Daniel 11:36 ); so mad was he in this that he was called Epimanes (maniac) instead of Epiphanes. None of the previous world rulers, Nebuchadnezzar ( Daniel 4:31-34 ), Darius ( Daniel 6:27 Daniel 6:28 ), Cyrus ( Ezra 1:2-4 ), Artaxerxes Longimanus ( Ezra 7:12 ), had systematically opposed the Jews' religious worship. Hence the need of prophecy to prepare them for Antiochus. The struggle of the Maccabees was a fruit of Daniel's prophecy (I Maccabees 2:59). He is the forerunner of the final Antichrist, standing in the same relation to the first advent of Christ that Antichrist does to His second coming. The sins in Israel which gave rise to the Greek Antichrist were that some Jews adopted Hellenic customs (compare Daniel 11:30 Daniel 11:32 ), erecting theaters, and regarding all religions alike, sacrificing to Jehovah, but at the same time sending money for sacrifices to Hercules. Such shall be the state of the world when ripe for Antichrist. At Daniel 8:9 and Daniel 8:23 the description passes from the literal Antiochus to features which, though partially attributed to him, hold good in their fullest sense only of his antitype, the New Testament Antichrist. The Mohammedan Antichrist may also be included; answering to the Euphratean (Turk) horsemen ( Revelation 9:14-21 ), loosed "an hour, a day, a month, a year" (391 years, in the year-day theory), to scourge corrupted, idolatrous Christianity. In A.D. 637 the Saracen Moslem mosque of Omar was founded on the site of the temple, "treading under foot the sanctuary" ( Daniel 8:11-13 ); and there it still remains.The first conquest of the Turks over Christians was in A.D. 1281; and 391 years after they reached their zenith of power and began to decline, Sobieski defeating them at Vienna. Mohammed II, called "the conqueror," reigned A.D. 1451-1481, in which period Constantinople fell 391 years after brings us to our own day, in which Turkey's fall is imminent.
waxed . . . great, toward . . . south--( Daniel 11:25 ). Antiochus fought against PTOLEMY Philometer and Egypt, that is, the south.
toward the east--He fought against those who attempted a change of government in Persia.
toward the pleasant land--Judea, "the glorious land" ( Daniel 11:16 Daniel 11:41 Daniel 11:45 ; compare Psalms 48:2 , Ezekiel 20:6 Ezekiel 20:15 ). Its chief pleasantness consists in its being God's chosen land ( Psalms 132:13 , Jeremiah 3:19 ). Into it Antiochus made his inroad after his return from Egypt.
10. great, even to . . . host of heaven--explained in Daniel 8:24 , "the mighty and holy people," that is, the Jews ( Daniel 7:21 ) and their priests (compare Isaiah 24:21 ). The Levites' service is called "a warfare" ( Numbers 8:24 Numbers 8:25 , Margin). Great civil and religious powers are symbolized by "stars" ( Matthew 24:29 ). See I Maccabees 1:25, &c. I Maccabees 2:35, &c. I Maccabees 5:2,12,13. TREGELLES refers "stars" to those Jews whose portion from God is heavenly glory ( Daniel 12:3 ), being believers in Him who is above at God's right hand: not the blinded Jews.
cast . . . stars to the ground--So Babel, as type of Antichrist, is described ( Isaiah 14:13 Isaiah 14:14 ), "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." Compare Revelation 12:4 ; II Maccabees 9:10, as to Antiochus.
11. to the prince of the host--that is, God Himself, the Lord of Sabaoth, the hosts in heaven and earth, stars, angels, and earthly ministers. So Daniel 8:25 , "he shall stand up against the Prince of princes"; "against the God of gods" ( Daniel 11:36 ; compare Daniel 7:8 ). He not only opposes God's ancient people, but also God Himself.
daily sacrifice--offered morning and evening ( Exodus 29:38 Exodus 29:39 ).
taken away--by Antiochus (I Maccabees 1:20-50).
sanctuary . . . cast down--Though robbed of its treasures, it was not strictly cast down" by Antiochus. So that a fuller accomplishment is future. Antiochus took away the daily sacrifice for a few years; the Romans, for many ages, and "cast down" the temple; and Antichrist, in connection with Rome, the fourth kingdom, shall do so again after the Jews in their own land, still unbelieving, shall have rebuilt the temple, and restored the Mosaic ritual: God giving them up to him "by reason of transgression" ( Daniel 8:12 ), that is, not owning the worship so rendered [TREGELLES]; and then the opposition of the horn to the "truth" is especially mentioned.
12. an host--rather, "the host was given up to him," that is, the holy people were given into his hands. So in Daniel 8:10 "the host" is used; and again in Daniel 8:13 , where also "give" is used as here for "giving up" for destruction (compare Daniel 11:6 ) [MAURER].
against . . . daily sacrifice--rather (the host was given up for him to tread upon), "together with the daily sacrifice" (compare Daniel 8:13 ).
by reason of transgression--I Maccabees 1:11-16 traces all the calamities suffered under Antiochus to the transgression of certain Jews who introduced heathen customs into Jerusalem just before. But transgression was not at the full ( Daniel 8:23 ) under Antiochus; for Onias the high priest administered the laws in godliness at the time (II Maccabees 3:1). Therefore the "transgression" must refer to that of the Jews hereafter restored to Palestine in unbelief.
the truth--the worship of the true God. Isaiah 59:14 , "Truth is fallen in the street."
practised, and prospered--Whatever he undertook succeeded ( Daniel 8:4 , Daniel 11:28 Daniel 11:36 ).
13. that certain saint--Daniel did not know the names of these two holy angels, but saw only that one was speaking to the other.
How long shall be the vision concerning . . . daily sacrifice--How long shall the daily sacrifice be suspended?
transgression of desolation--literally, "making desolate," that is, Antiochus desolating profanation of the temple ( Daniel 11:31 , 12:11 ). Compare as to Rome and the last Antichrist, Matthew 24:15 .
14. unto me--The answer is to Daniel, not to the inquirer, for the latter had asked in Daniel's name; as vice versa the saint or angel ( Job 15:15 , Psalms 89:6 Psalms 89:7 ) speaks of the vision granted to Daniel, as if it had been granted to himself. For holy men are in Scripture represented as having attendant angels, with whom they are in a way identified in interests. If the conversation had been limited to the angels, it could have been of no use to us. But God conveys it to prophetical men, for our good, through the ministry of angels.
two thousand . . . three hundred days--literally, "mornings and evenings," specified in connection with the morning and evening sacrifice. Compare Genesis 1:5 . Six years and a hundred ten days. This includes not only the three and a half years during which the daily sacrifice was forbidden by Antiochus [JOSEPHUS, Wars of the Jews, 1:1.1], but the whole series of events whereby it was practically interrupted: beginning with the "little horn waxing great toward the pleasant land," and "casting down some of the host" ( Daniel 8:9 Daniel 8:10 ); namely, when in 171 B.C., or the month Sivan in the year 142 of the era of the Seleucidæ, the sacrifices began to be neglected, owing to the high priest Jason introducing at Jerusalem Grecian customs and amusements, the palæstra and gymnasium; ending with the death of Antiochus, 165 B.C., or the month Shebath, in the year 148 of the Seleucid era. Compare I Maccabees 1:11-15; II Maccabees 4:9, &c. The reason for the greater minuteness of historical facts and dates, given in Daniel's prophecies, than in those of the New Testament, is that Israel, not having yet the clear views which Christians have of immortality and the heavenly inheritance, could only be directed to the earthly future: for it was on earth the looked-for Messiah was to appear, and the sum and subject of Old Testament prophecy was the kingdom of God upon earth. The minuteness of the revelation of Israel's earthly destiny was to compensate for the absence, in the Old Testament, of views of heavenly glory. Thus, in Daniel 9:24-27 , the times of Messiah are foretold to the very year; in Daniel 8:14 the times of Antiochus, even to the day; and in Daniel 11:5-20 the Syro-Egyptian struggles in most minute detail. TREGELLES thinks the twenty-three hundred "days" answer to the week of years ( Daniel 9:27 ), during which the destroying prince ( Daniel 9:26 ) makes a covenant, which he breaks in the midst of the week (namely, at the end of three and a half years). The seven years exceed the twenty-three hundred days by considerably more than a half year. This period of the seven years' excess above the twenty-three hundred days may be allotted to the preparations needed for setting up the temple-worship, with Antichrist's permission to the restored Jews, according to his "covenant" with them; and the twenty-three hundred days may date from the actual setting up of the worship. But, says AUBERLEN, the more accurate to a day the dates as to Antiochus are given, the less should we say the 1290, or 1335 days ( Daniel 12:11 Daniel 12:12 ) correspond to the half week (roughly), and the twenty-three hundred to the whole. The event, however, may, in the case of Antichrist, show a correspondence between the days here given and Daniel 9:27 , such as is not yet discernible. The term of twenty-three hundred days cannot refer twenty-three hundred years of the treading down of Christianity by Mohammedanism, as this would leave the greater portion of the time yet future; whereas, Mohammedanism is fast waning. If the twenty-three hundred days mean years, dating from Alexander's conquests, 334 B.C. to 323, we should arrive at about the close of the sixth thousand years of the world, just as the 1260 years ( Daniel 7:25 ) from Justinian's decree arrive at the same terminus. The Jews' tradition represents the seventh thousand as the millennium. CUMMING remarks, 480 B.C. is the date of the waning of the Persian empire before Greece; deducting 480 from 2300, we have 1820; and in 1821, Turkey, the successor of the Greek empire, began to wane, and Greece
cleansed--literally, "justified," vindicated from profanation. Judas Maccabeus celebrated the feast of dedication after the cleansing, on the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Kisleu (I Maccabees 4:51-58; II Maccabees 10:1-7; John 10:22 ). As to the antitypical dedication of the new temple, see Ezekiel 43:1-27 , &c.; also Amos 9:11 Amos 9:12 .
16. Gabriel--meaning, "the strength of God."
17. the time of the end--so Daniel 8:19 , Daniel 11:35 Daniel 11:36 Daniel 11:40 . The event being to take place at "the time of the end" makes it likely that the Antichrist ultimately referred to (besides the immediate reference to Antiochus) in this chapter, and the one in Daniel 7:8 , are one and the same. The objection that the one in the seventh chapter springs out of the ten divisions of the Roman earth, the fourth kingdom, the one in the eighth chapter and the eleventh chapter from one of the four divisions of the third kingdom, Greece, is answered thus: The four divisions of the Grecian empire, having become parts of the Roman empire, shall at the end form four of its ten final divisions [TREGELLES]. However, the origin from one of the four parts of the third kingdom may be limited to Antiochus, the immediate subject of the eighth and eleventh chapter, while the ulterior typical reference of these chapters (namely, Antichrist) may belong to one of the ten Roman divisions, not necessarily one formerly of the four of the third kingdom. The event will tell. "Time of the end" may apply to the time of Antiochus. For it is the prophetic phrase for the time of fulfilment, seen always at the end of the prophetic horizon ( Genesis 49:1 , Numbers 24:14 ).
19. the last end of the indignation--God's displeasure against the Jews for their sins. For their comfort they are told, the calamities about to come are not to be for ever. The "time" is limited ( Daniel 9:27 , Daniel 11:27 Daniel 11:35 Daniel 11:36 , 12:7 , Habakkuk 2:3 ).
21. the first king--Philip was king of Macedon before Alexander, but the latter was the first who, as a generalissimo of Greece, subdued the Persian empire.
22. not in his power--not with the power which Alexander possessed [MAURER]. An empire united, as under Alexander, is more powerful than one divided, as under the four Diadochi.
23. transgressors are come to the full--This does not hold good of the times of Antiochus, but of the closing times of the Christian era. Compare Luke 18:8 , and 2 Timothy 3:1-9 , as to the wickedness of the world in general just before Christ's second coming. Israel's guilt, too, shall then be at the full, when they who rejected Christ shall receive Antichrist; fulfilling Jesus words, "I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" (compare Genesis 15:16 , Matthew 23:32 , 1 Thessalonians 2:16 ).
of fierce countenance--( Deuteronomy 28:50 ); one who will spare neither old nor young.
understanding dark sentences--rather, "artifices" [GESENIUS]. Antiochus made himself master of Egypt and Jerusalem successively by craft (I Maccabees 1:30, &c.; II Maccabees 5:24, &c.).
24. not by his own power--which in the beginning was "little" ( Daniel 8:9 , 7:8 ); but by gaining over others through craft, the once little horn became "mighty" (compare Daniel 8:25 , 11:23 ). To be fully realized by Antichrist. He shall act by the power of Satan, who shall then be permitted to work through him in unrestricted license, such as he has not now ( Revelation 13:2 ); hence the ten kingdoms shall give the beast their power ( 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 , Revelation 17:13 ).
prosper and practise--prosper in all that he attempts ( Daniel 8:12 ).
holy people--His persecutions are especially directed against the Jews.
25. by peace--by pretending "peace" and friendship; in the midst of security [GESENIUS], suddenly striking his blow
also . . . against the Prince of princes--not merely against the Jews ( Daniel 8:11 , 11:36 ).
broken without hand--by God's special visitation. The stone "cut out of the mountain without hands," that is, Christ is to smite the world power image on his feet ( Daniel 2:34 ), that is, in its last development (compare Daniel 7:11 ). Antiochus horrible death by worms and ulcers, when on his way to Judea, intending to take vengeance for the defeat of his armies by the Maccabees, was a primary fulfilment, foreshadowing God's judgment on the last enemy of the Jewish Church.
26. shut . . . up . . . vision--implying the vision was not to be understood for the present. In Revelation 22:10 it is said, "Seal not the vision, for the time is at hand." What in Daniel's time was hidden was more fully explained in Revelation, and as the time draws nearer, it will be clearer still.
it shall be for many days--It refers to remote times ( Ezekiel 12:27 ).
27. I . . . was sick--through grief at the calamities coming on my people and the Church of God (compare Psalms 102:14 ).
afterward I . . . did the king's business--He who holds nearest communion with heaven can best discharge the duties of common life.
none understood it--He had heard of kings, but knew not their names; He foresaw the events, but not the time when they were to take place; thereupon he could only feel "astonished," and leave all with the omniscient God [JEROME].