Previously we have seen two prophecies of broad scope, encompassing four kingdoms (Dan. 2 and Dan. 7). In this chapter, the focus narrows to the kingdoms of Persian and Greece.
I. The Vision (8:1-14)
A. Setting (8:1-2).
1. The vision is dated in the third year of Belshazzar, around 548 BC (8:1; cf. 7:1).
2. Daniel was in the capital city of Susa, by the Ulai canal (8:2; cf. Ezek. 1:1).
B. The ram (8:3-4).
1. Daniel saw a ram with two horns, one of which was higher (8:3).
a) In 8:20 these two horns are interpreted as the kings of Media and Persia.
b) Perhaps the reason one was higher than the other was because of Persia’s dominance over Media.
2. The ram charged west, north and south (implying it came from the east) and became great (8:4).
C. The goat (8:5-8).
1. This goat came from the west without touching the ground with a conspicuous horn between its eyes (8:5).
a) In 8:21 this is interpreted as the king of Greece.
b) The horn would naturally refer to Alexander the Great.
c) Perhaps the swift movement symbolizes the rapid conquest of Alexander.
2. The goat cast the ram down and trampled him (8:6-7), picturing Alexander’s conquest of Persia.
3. The goat’s horn was broken, and was replaced by four horns (8:8).
a) Alexander abruptly died at age 32 in 323 BC.
b) His kingdom was divided among four generals, the Diadochi (Cassander in Macedonia, Lysimachis in Asia Minor, Seleucus in Syria and Ptolemy in Egypt).
D. The little horn (8:9-14).
1. From one of the four horns grew a “little horn” which grew great toward the south, east and “glorious land” (se Ezek. 20:6, 15), even to the host of heaven, throwing some stars down from heaven and becoming “as great as the Prince of the host” (8:9-11a).
a) This refers to one of the successors of Seleucus, a tyrant named Antiochus IV (reigned 175-164 BC).
b) Antiochus claimed divine honors, calling himself Antiochus Epiphanes (“God Manifest”). The Jews gave him the nickname “Epimanes,” meaning “madman.”
c) He hated Judaism, and did everything he could to destroy it, culminating with the desecration of the altar of the temple in 167 BC (his madness against the Jews is summarized in 1 Maccabees 1).
d) Josephus interpreted the vision of Daniel 8 as a reference to Antiochus. “The springing up of four horns upon its falling off, and the conversion of every one of them to the four quarters of the earth, signified the successors that should arise after the death of the first king, and the partition of the kingdom among them, and that they should be neither his children, nor of his kindred, that should reign over the habitable earth for many years; and that from among them there should arise a certain king that should overcome our nation and their laws, and should take away their political government, and should spoil the temple, and forbid the sacrifices to be offered for three years' time. And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel's vision, and what he wrote many years before they came to pass.” Antiquities, 10.11.7.
2. This little horn prospered, putting an end to the burnt offering and trampling the sanctuary (8:11b-12; cf. 1 Mac. 1:44-47).
3. When a holy one (angel) asked how long this would last, he was told “for 2,300 evenings and mornings” (8:13-14).
a) This could refer to 2,300 days, or to 1,150 days with the twice daily offering.
b) The main point is that this desecration was for a limited period of time; “then the sanctuary shall be restored.”
II. Interpretation of the Vision (8:15-27)
A. The coming of Gabriel (8:15-17).
1. Daniel wanted to know what this meant, and was visited by one with the appearance of a man (8:15).
2. A voice spoke to this man, identified as Gabriel, to make Daniel understand the vision (8:16).
3. Gabriel’s appearance frightened Daniel, who fell to his face (8:17-18).
a) This was a common response to angelic visions (see 10:9; Ezek. 1:28).
b) Gabriel consoled Daniel by saying this vision was for “the time of the end,” which in this context refers to the end of the desecration of the temple.
c) Gabriel touched Daniel and made him stand up.
B. Gabriel’s interpretation (8:19-26).
1. We have already discussed the interpretation of this vision, which looks ahead to the period between the testaments.
2. Verses 24-25 add a few more details about the coming of the evil Antiochus-
a) He would be “of bold face” (8:23) and “cunning” (8:25).
b) He would destroy “mighty men and the people who are saints” (8:24).
c) He would be broken, but not by human hands (8:25). Interesting, Antiochus suddenly died of disease in 164 BC.
C. Daniel was overcome with sickness due to this vision (8:27).