VIII. Israel’s Prophetic History during the Times of the Gentiles (Daniel 8:1–11:35)


VIII. Israel’s Prophetic History during the Times of the Gentiles (8:1–11:35)

8:1-8 Daniel’s prophetic vision in chapter 8 is incredibly accurate in its historical fulfillment. This is one of the reasons why biblical critics, who dismiss the possibility of predictive prophecy, insist that this must have been written in the second century BC rather than in the sixth century. For believers, this is further evidence of the inspiration and inerrancy of God’s Word.

Daniel had another vision during King Belshazzar’s reign (8:1; see 7:1). In this dream, he saw a ram with two horns standing in the fortress city of Susa (8:2-3), which was in the eastern part of the Medo-Persian Empire. The ram was charging to the west . . . north . . . south, and no other power was able to stop him (8:4). But then, a male goat appeared, coming from the west . . . without touching the ground, a detail symbolizing lightning speed of movement and conquest. This goat had great power—a conspicuous horn (8:5). As Daniel watched, the goat smashed the ram to the ground and became the new world power (8:6-7). This is another picture of the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great, the “third king/kingdom” of the earlier visions in the book (see 2:39; 7:6). But, at the height of its power, the goat’s large horn was broken, and out of it came four other horns (8:8). Indeed, when Alexander died, his kingdom was divided among four other men.

8:9-11 Daniel’s attention was directed to a little horn (8:9). It emerged from the four, became great, and turned its fury against Israel—even trying to make itself as great as the Prince of the heavenly army, God himself (8:9-11). This figure sounds like the little horn of 7:8 and 24-26 (the Antichrist), but given the details here (and those later in Daniel), this appears to be a picture of the brutal and infamous Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV. Also called Epiphanes, he was one of the four rulers who emerged from the divided Greek Empire after Alexander’s death.

8:12-14 Antiochus Epiphanes invaded Israel with the purpose of “Hellenizing” the Jews, trying to force them to accept Greek dress, customs, and religion. He stopped the sacrifices from 168-165 BC—2,300 evenings and mornings or 1,150 days (8:13-14). He also slaughtered thousands of Jews and desecrated the temple in Jerusalem by erecting a statue of the Greek god Zeus and sacrificing a pig on the altar.

Eventually, a band of Jews led by Judas Maccabeus defeated the Seleucid forces and cleansed the temple (as described in the Jewish book of 1 Maccabees). The rededication of the temple is still celebrated by Jews today during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah (meaning, “dedication”). Antiochus appears here not only because he was a prominent figure in Israel’s prophetic future, but because he was also a mirror image of the still-future little horn of Daniel 7, the Antichrist.

8:15-17 Daniel had a powerful interpreter to help him understand the meaning of his vision, an angel named Gabriel (8:16). This is the first time in Scripture that an angel is mentioned by name. Gabriel appears again in the Gospel of Luke, where he announces to the priest Zechariah the coming of John the Baptist, and to Mary the coming of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:19, 26). Gabriel was told to explain the vision to Daniel, who was terrified (8:16-17). In fact, humans in Scripture are frequently filled with awe and fear when knowingly in the presence of angels (see, e.g., Dan 10:8-9; Luke 1:12; Rev 19:10; 22:8).

8:18-27 The key to the vision’s interpretation is that it was for the conclusion of the time of wrath, because it refers to the appointed time of the end (8:19). Thus, this is the span of time opening with the entry of the times of the Gentiles and ending with Christ’s second coming. The two-horned ram . . . represents the kings of Media and Persia, while the shaggy goat represents the king of Greece (Alexander the Great). Theirs are the second and third empires revealed in the book of Daniel (8:20-21). The four horns (8:22) represent the four leaders, including Antiochus Epiphanes (see 8:9-14), who divided Alexander’s kingdom. Antiochus’s demonic reign is prophesied again in 8:23-26 and once again mirrors the coming Antichrist.

9:1-2 Daniel was elderly by the first year of Darius (9:1)—having been in captivity for about sixty-seven years. One day, while reading the word of the Lord, Daniel realized that the number of years for the desolation of Jerusalem would be seventy (9:2). The Lord had revealed to Jeremiah (which Jeremiah subsequently communicated to the Jewish exiles), “When seventy years for Babylon are complete, I . . . will confirm my promise concerning you to restore you to this place” (Jer 29:10; see Jer 25:11-12). In other words, God’s people would soon be returning to their land!

9:3-19 Like Nehemiah after him would do (Neh 1:4-11), Daniel immediately prayed to the Lord on behalf of the people (9:4). Though he knew what God had said, Daniel wasn’t going to presume on God’s promise. Rather, he decided to ask God to forgive the wickedness of his people and deliver them. Daniel confessed the people’s sins and rebellion (9:4-10), acknowledged that God was righteous to judge them (9:11-14), and begged God for mercy on the people and city called by his name (9:15-19).

9:20-23 Though Daniel did not mention the future of Israel and especially Jerusalem—the holy mountain of my God (9:20)—by name in his prayer, it was evidently on his heart because of the answer Gabriel brought him from heaven (9:21-23). Because Daniel was treasured by God, God was going to give him understanding about what would happen at the close of Babylonian captivity (9:22-23).

9:24 Gabriel declared that seventy weeks are decreed about Daniel’s people and . . . city. “Seventy weeks” is literally “seventy sevens” in Hebrew. Here Gabriel is not talking in terms of days, though; he’s talking in terms of years. In context, Daniel had just been praying with regard to the seventy years that Israel would be in captivity according to Jeremiah’s prophecy. So, “seventy sevens” means seventy times seven years, or 490 years.

What will God accomplish during this 490-year period? Well, for starters, he will bring an end to the rebellion of Israel, put a stop to sin in Israel through the new covenant, atone for iniquity through his Son Jesus Christ, and bring in everlasting righteousness through the millennial reign of Christ. That’s a pretty incredible to-do list!

9:25 Gabriel said this period would begin with the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. The reference is most likely to 444 BC, when Persian King Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah to begin rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem (see Neh 2:1-8). We know the date because Nehemiah tells us it happened “in the twentieth year of” Arta-xerxes’s reign (Neh 2:1). From that point until an Anointed One came, there would be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. Again, remember that the “weeks” are periods of seven years. That’s a total of sixty-nine (seven plus sixty-two) times seven years, or 483 years.

During the first “seven weeks” (or “seven sevens”)—forty-nine years—Jerusalem was rebuilt. Nehemiah experienced these difficult times when his enemies wished to kill him and put an end to the work (see Neh 4:1-23; 6:1-14).

After the next time segment, the “sixty-two sevens” (434 years), the “Anointed One” would appear. This is the translation of the Hebrew word Messiah—in Greek, Christ. So, from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (444 BC) to the coming of the Messiah would be 49 plus 434, equaling 483 years. However, we must keep in mind that these are prophetic years, not necessarily our modern calendar years. Nevertheless, if we compare Daniel’s three and a half years (see 9:27 below) with the 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3 (also Rev 12:6) and the forty-two months of Revelation 11:2 (also Rev 13:5), we see that all three are talking about the same time period—the last half of the seven-year great tribulation period. Forty-two months of 1,260 days works out to thirty days per month. That results in a prophetic year of 360 days. When the calculations are made, 483 prophetic years from 444 BC causes us to arrive at AD 33, the year of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Our God is precise.

9:26 After those sixty-two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off refers to the crucifixion of Christ. But clearly, there is a break between Daniel’s sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. After the sixty-ninth week, the prophetic clock stopped ticking. The events of 9:26-27 refer to the seven-year tribulation period that is to come. Therefore, a gap of time began at the conclusion of the sixty-ninth week and continues today. This interlude between weeks sixty-nine and seventy is the church age, which Daniel did not foresee. The coming ruler is the Antichrist, who will arise at the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week (the tribulation) and wreak havoc.

9:27 When Daniel’s final “week” (seven years) begins, the Antichrist will make a firm covenant with many. He will be a world leader pretending to bring peace to Israel. But, in the middle of the week—halfway through the tribulation—he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. So, while the Jews will apparently be offering sacrifices again in a rebuilt temple during this time, the Antichrist will break his covenant and put a stop to it. Moreover, he will set up the abomination of desolation . . . on a wing of the temple. He will set himself up as a god in Israel’s temple, demanding worship and finally revealing himself as the wicked beast that he is (see Rev 13:4-8). Yet, at the end of the tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ will pour out his judgment on this desolator.

10:1-9 Once again, Daniel was being prepared to receive a vision and prophetic revelation from an angel. This time it would be a sweeping panorama of prophecy involving King Cyrus of Persia and even the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth (10:1). Daniel knew something awe-inspiring was coming because he mourned and fasted for three full weeks beforehand (10:2-3). The angel who appeared to him was dazzling in appearance (10:5-6). The men with Daniel did not see the vision, but a great terror fell on them nonetheless (10:7). Meanwhile, Daniel was weakened by holy fear and fell into a deep sleep (10:8-9).

10:10-14 Here we are given insight into the warfare that takes place in the spiritual realm. Daniel had been praying and fasting for three weeks, and the angel had been sent from the first day in response (10:12). However, the angel had been hindered by a figure called the prince of the kingdom of Persia who opposed him for twenty-one days—for the full period during which Daniel had been fasting and praying (10:13; see 10:2-3)! This was clearly a high-ranking demon assigned to the nation of Persia to represent the devil’s kingdom and fight against God’s.

Scripture frequently says that Satan exercises a level of control and rule in this fallen world (see 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 1 John 5:19). Thus, the messenger who had come to Daniel had been engaging in angelic warfare. In fact, the power of this demonic prince of Persia was so great that Michael, one of the chief princes, was sent to his aid (10:13). We learn in Jude 9 that Michael is an “archangel.” By virtue of his strength, the angel prevailed and reached Daniel (10:14).

10:15-21 Though Daniel was overwhelmed with anguish and weakness, the angel strengthened him to receive the revelation that follows in chapters 11 and 12 (10:15-19). But, there was more angelic struggle ahead. The angel had to return at once to fight against the prince of Persia. Then he told Daniel that the prince of Greece would come (10:20). This indicates that the demons of Satan’s kingdom are always at war against God’s kingdom and servants. It’s this warfare that you can’t see—the war in the spiritual realm—that you must be prepared to wage (see Eph 6:10-18).

11:1-20 These verses contain some of the most detailed prophecy in Scripture. The angel first mentions the rise and fall of a succession of kings . . . in Persia (11:2). Then he focuses at length on the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, the warrior king (11:3). Indeed, after he died, his empire was divided (11:4). It was the kingdoms of two of Alexander’s generals who divided his domain that were important to the future of Israel. These were the kingdoms of the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria. Daniel called them the king of the South and the king of the North (10:5-6), referring to their geographical locations in relation to Israel. Here the angel provides an account of the continual conflict between these kingdoms (10:6-20), during which Israel would often be invaded by one or the other power.

11:21-35 The great enemy of the Jews, Antiochus Epiphanes (whom we saw earlier in 8:9-14), appears again in a prophecy of his abominations (11:21-35). This despised person was not even the rightful ruler of his kingdom, but seized it by intrigue (11:21). He invaded Egypt but did not get all he wanted. When the Romans opposed him on a second attempt to invade Egypt, Antiochus withdrew in humiliation and took out his rage on the Jews on his way back to Syria (11:29-30). It was then that he set up his own abomination of desolation (11:31; see 9:27), and thousands of faithful Jews who resisted him were martyred (11:33). But the people who know their God will be strong and take action (11:32). Life’s circumstances will not keep them down.