– Daniel 8:1-27
This revisiting of the account in Daniel 8:1-27 of another vision given to Daniel, was prompted by the examination of Daniel 11 and 12 about the King of the North and the King of the South and its results.
This article takes the same approach as the previous articles on the book of Daniel, namely, to approach the examination exegetically, allowing the Bible to interpret itself. Doing this leads to a natural conclusion, rather than approaching with preconceived ideas. As always in any Bible study, context was very important.
Who were the intended audience? It was given by the angel to Daniel under God’s Holy Spirit, this time, there was some interpretation of which kingdoms each animal was, but as before it was written for the Jewish nation. This was also the third year of Belshazzar, which is understood to be the sixth year of Nabonidus, his father.
Let us begin our examination.
Background to the Vision
It is significant that this vision took place in the 6th year of Nabonidus. This was the year that Astyages, King of Media, attacked Cyrus, King of Persia, and was handed over to Cyrus, being succeeded by Harpagus as a vassal King of Media. It is also very interesting that the Nabonidus chronicle [i] is the source of some of this information. In addition, it is also a very rare example where the exploits of a non-Babylonian king are recorded by the Babylonian scribes. It records the success of Cyrus in the 6th year of Nabonidus against Astyages and an attack by Cyrus against an unknown king in the 9th year of Nabonidus. Was the known part of this dream about Medo-Persia told to Belshazzar? Or were the actions of Persia already being monitored by Babylon because of Daniel’s interpretation of the Image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream some years before?
“When I raised my eyes, then I saw, and, look! a ram standing before the watercourse, and it had two horns. And the two horns were tall, but the one was taller than the other, and the taller was the one that came up afterward. 4 I saw the ram making thrusts to the west and to the north and to the south, and no wild beasts kept standing before it, and there was no one doing any delivering out of its hand. And it did according to its will, and it put on great airs.”
The interpretation of these verses is given to Daniel and recorded in verse 20 which states “The ram that you saw possessing the two horns [stands for] the kings of Meʹdi·a and Persia.”.
It is also interesting to note that the two horns were Media and Persia, and as verse 3 say, “the taller one came up afterward”. It was fulfilled in the very year of the vision, as in this 3rd year of Belshazzar, Persia became the dominant of the two kingdoms of Media and Persia.
The Medo-Persian Empire made thrusts to the west, to Greece, to the north, to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to the south, to Egypt.
The two horned Ram: Medo-Persia, the second horn Persia to become dominant
“And I, for my part, kept on considering, and, look! there was a male of the goats coming from the sunset upon the surface of the whole earth, and it was not touching the earth. And as regards the he-goat, there was a conspicuous horn between its eyes. 6 And it kept coming all the way to the ram possessing the two horns, which I had seen standing before the watercourse; and it came running toward it in its powerful rage. And I saw it coming into close touch with the ram, and it began showing bitterness toward it, and it proceeded to strike down the ram and to break its two horns, and there proved to be no power in the ram to stand before it. So it threw it to the earth and trampled it down, and the ram proved to have no deliverer out of its hand.”
The interpretation of these verses is given to Daniel and recorded in verse 21 which states “And the hairy he-goat [stands for] the king of Greece; and as for the great horn that was between its eyes, it [stands for] the first king”.
The first king was Alexander the Great, the most important King of the Greek empire. It was also him that attacked the Ram, the Medo-Persian Empire and defeated it, taking over all its lands.
“And the male of the goats, for its part, put on great airs to an extreme; but as soon as it became mighty, the great horn was broken, and there proceeded to come up conspicuously four instead of it, toward the four winds of the heavens”
This was repeated in Daniel 8:22 “And that one having been broken, so that there were four that finally stood up instead of it, there are four kingdoms from [his] nation that will stand up, but not with his power”.
History shows that 4 generals took over Alexander’s Empire, but they were often fighting one another instead of cooperating together, so they did not have the power of Alexander.
The male goat: Greece
Its great horn: Alexander the Great
Its 4 horns: Ptolemy, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus
“And out of one of them there came forth another horn, a small one, and it kept getting very much greater toward the south and toward the sunrising and toward the Decoration. 10 And it kept getting greater all the way to the army of the heavens, so that it caused some of the army and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it went trampling them down. 11 And all the way to the Prince of the army it put on great airs, and from him the constant
The King of the North and the King of the South came to be the dominant kingdoms of the four arising from Alexander’s conquests. Initially, the King of the South, Ptolemy held power over the land of Judah. But in time the Seleucid Kingdom, the King of the north, gained control over lands of the king of the south (Egypt under the Ptolemies) including Judea. One Seleucid king Antiochus IV deposed and killed Onias III the Jewish high priest of the time (the Prince of the Jewish Army). He also caused the constant feature of sacrifices in the Temple to be removed for a time.
The cause of the removal of the constant feature and the loss of the army was because of the transgressions of the Jewish nation at that time.
There was an ongoing attempt by many Jewish supporters of Antiochus IV to try to Hellenize the Jews, forgoing and even reversing circumcision. However, a group of Jews who opposed this Hellenization arose, including a number of prominent Jews who also opposed where killed.
A little horn from one of the four horns: Seleucid descendent King Antiochus IV
“And I got to hear a certain holy one speaking, and another holy one proceeded to say to the particular one who was speaking: “How long will the vision be of the constant
History records that it was some 6 years and 4 months (2300 evenings and morning) before some semblance of normality was restored, as the Bible prophecy indicates.
“and he went on to say “Here I am causing you to know what will occur in the final part of the denunciation, because it is for the appointed time of the end.”
The Denunciation was to be against Israel / the Jews for their continued transgressions. The appointed time of the end was therefore of the Jewish system of the things.
“And in the final part of their kingdom, as the transgressors act to a completion, there will stand up a king fierce in countenance and understanding ambiguous sayings. 24 And his power must become mighty, but not by his own power. And in a wonderful way he will cause ruin, and he will certainly prove successful and do effectively. And he will actually bring mighty ones to ruin, also the people made up of [the] holy ones.”
In the final part of their kingdom of the king of the north (the Seleucids) as it was subsumed by Rome, a Fierce King – a very good description of Herod the Great, would stand up. He was given favor which he accepted to become a king (not by his own power) and proved successful. He also killed many powerful people (mighty ones, non-Jews) and many Jews (at that time still the holy or chosen ones) to maintain and increase his power.
He was successful despite much plotting against him by many enemies.
He also understood riddles or ambiguous sayings. The account of Matthew 2:1-8 regarding the astrologers and the birth of Jesus, indicates he knew about the promised Messiah, and linked it to the astrologer’s questions and subtly endeavored to find out where Jesus would be born so he could attempt to thwart its fulfillment.
A Fierce King: Herod the Great
“And according to his insight he will also certainly cause deception to succeed in his hand. And in his heart he will put on great airs, and during a freedom from care he will bring many to ruin. And against the Prince of princes he will stand up, but it will be without hand that he will be broken”
Herod used deception to keep his power. His actions indicate that he put on great airs, as he took no care in who he murdered or brought to ruin. Herod even tried to kill Jesus, the Prince of princes, using his insight of the scriptures and information given to him by clever questioning to try to locate Jesus. When this failed, he then ordered the killing of all young baby boys in the area of Bethlehem up to two years old in an attempt to kill Jesus. It was to no avail, however, and not long after this (maybe a year at most) he died of illness rather than killed by the hand of an assassin or by the hand of an opponent in war.
The Fierce King would attempt to attack Jesus the Prince of Princes