In this episode, we tackle chapter 8 of the book of Daniel and the need for animal control! Chapter 8 is one of the rare times where pretty much everyone agrees on the interpretation, and that's because the text tells us exactly who the symbols given represent. So much easier when it does that! So who is this ram with 2 long horns that comes out of the bush and this goat with the conspicuous horn that charges across the world to attack the ram? And what the heck does any of this have to do with us?!
Episode 108 – Where’s Animal Control when You Need Them
Welcome Back! Chris, you know, there are parts of the book of Daniel that can make your head hurt. Chapter 7 that we looked at last week was definitely one of those parts, and we didn’t even get to cover the whole chapter in depth!
That was definitely a chapter we could have spent another episode or 2 on, but we are just trying to give the main ideas and important take aways from each chapter. So we are going to move onto chapter 8 today, but we encourage you to dig deeper into chapter 7, and you can always email or message us if you have any questions about it.
So onto chapter 8 and the need for animal control! In one way, chapter 8 is a refreshing change from chapter 7 and will help explain beast #2 more from chapter 7. This is one of the rare times where pretty much everyone agrees on what is going on here. Probably because the text tells us exactly who the symbols given represent. So much easier when it does that! But before we dive into the text, we want to point out that the chapter starts out, “In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign.” So if you have been keeping track, you know that means that Chapter 8 occurs two years after chapter 7, but still before chapters 5 & 6. We are going to skip a little around in this chapter like we did in chapter 7, just to make things clearer.
After stating the time the events in this chapter take place, Daniel tells us that he had a vision while he was in Susa, which is the capital of Persia. He says this in verses 3 & 4, “I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.”
This is the first part of Daniel’s vision. He sees this ram that has 2 long horns and charges toward the west, north and south. No one could stand against him and he did as he pleased and became great. Later in the chapter, the angel Gabriel interprets the vision for Daniel. After Daniel falls into a deep sleep with his face to the ground, Gabriel tells him to get up so he can interpret all that he saw in his vision. In verse 20 of chapter 8, Gabriel tells Daniel, “As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia.
It wasn’t a stretch to use a ram to represent the Medo-Persian Empire. Ammianus Marcellinus, a fourth century historian, stated that it was customary for the Persian ruler to wear the head of a ram as he stood at the head of his army. And also that the ram was the national emblem of Persia. A ram was stamped on Persian coins as well as on the headdress of Persian emperors.” Sounds like the ram is the perfect animal to represent the Medo-Persian kings.
Notice the ram Daniel saw charged towards the west, north and south, but not the east. The Medo-Persian Kingdom had waged war to win territories to the west, north and south. It did not, though, have any conquests to the east. To quote Adam Clarke, “The principle theatre of their wars, says Calmet, was against the Scythians, northward; against the Greeks, westward; and against the Egyptians, southward.”
Okay, onto the next animal that Daniel sees right after the ram beginning in verse 5, “As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great.” And the vision doesn’t stop there, but we’ll stop for a minute so we can talk about who this goat that crushes this ram is.
Gabriel tells Daniel in verse 21 exactly who the goat was. And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king.Like the ram, the goat was not a strange symbol to use to represent the Greek Empire. Again, deferring to Adam Clarke, he says this, “Newton very properly observes that, 200 years before the time of Daniel, they (the Greeks) were called, the goats’ people.”
We want to stop a second and talk about the time table of all of this. Rose, you mentioned 200 years before Daniels’ time, the Greeks were called the goat people. As we saw in chapter 5, Daniel lived to see the Medo-Persian Empire take Babylon and become the dominant world power. However, at the time of this vision to Daniel, the Greek Empire was barely existent and certainly not a power to worry about. The vision Daniel gets is 200 years in his future! It wasn’t until the great horn the text mentions, who is Alexander the Great, came to power that Greece became a global super power. Daniel died around 536 BC and Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persian Empire around 334 BC. So Daniel received a vision that was far in his future, but very far in our past
Good point. Chris, the verses you read say the goat with the great horn who, as you said, is Alexander the Great was enraged against the ram (the Medo-Persian kings) Here we go back to checking out historical records. Alexander the Great was the Greek ruler who was finally able to conquer Medo-Persia in 334 BC. Up until then, there some of the fiercest battles in history between Persia and Greece during the Greco-Persian Wars which lasted over 50 years from 499 – 448 BC. So by the time Alexander the Great came to power, he and every other Greek had a big chip on their soldier about Medo-Persians.
And just to give you a brief history less on Alexander the Great - He came to power in the Greek Empire in 336 B.C. He embarked on a huge military campaign through Asia and Northeast Africa. He created the largest empire of the ancient world, at that time, by the age of 30. His kingdom spanned from Greece to northwestern India. Alexander's legacy includes starting Greco-Buddhism, a syncretism between Hellenism and Buddhism. He founded some twenty cities that bore his name, most notably Alexandria, which is the capital of Egypt. His resettling Greek colonists into conquered territories resulted in the Greek culture spreading and a new Hellenistic civilization. We see the hellenists Jews and Israelite Jews go up against each other a few times in the New Testament. Alexander died at the age of 32 in 323 BC. No one knows exactly how he dies. Speculation of causes include typhoid, an alcoholic liver disease, or murder from poison. The important point is that when he dies, he had no heir.
And that’s important not just for the significance it plays in history and the Greek Empire’s eventual downfall to Rome, but for the text we are talking about in Daniel. Daniel actually sees this occurrence in his vision. Gabriel says this about Alexander the Great first in verse 8, “Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. And then this in verse 22,“As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.
Because Alexander had no heir, upon his death, a struggle for control began. It was eventually divided amongst his 4 generals into four smaller kingdoms. The kingdoms were named after these generals. There was the Kingdom of Cassander, the Kingdom of Lysimachus, the Kingdom of Seleucus, and the Kingdom of Ptolemy. The kingdom of Lysimachus was eventually absorbed into the Seleucid Kingdom while the kingdom of Cassander joined the kingdom of Ptolemy. Thus, leaving Seleucid and Ptolemy as the major players in Greece. And if you know history, you know that these 2 kingdoms fought for control of each other in what was called the Syrian Wars. One was to the north and one was to the south with Jerusalem smack dab in the middle of the two.
We don’t have the time to go into it now, but this greatly affected the Jews living in the promised land. The war between these 2 went on off and on for over100 years. That is probably one of the reasons Daniel gets this vision to record. But there is definitely another reason, and that is what he sees in verse 9 after he sees that the great horn on the goat would be divided into 4 kingdoms. Verses 9-11 say, “Out of one of them(meaning the 4 kingdoms) came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host.
Gabriel gives this further interpretation in verses 23 – 25, “And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes”
So out of one of the four divide horns sprouts another horn, which starts out small but grows to be really powerful towards what is called in the text the “Glorious Land.” Remember we said Jerusalem and the Promised Land are right in the middle of these feuding side. The Glorious Land, or Beautiful Land as its called in some translations is the Promised Land. And this little horn has his sights set on it. So who is this little horn?
Well from the Seleucid Kingdom came a really mean dude. This little horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, who reigned from 175 – 164 B.C. His original name was Mithradates; he changed it to Antiochus once he took the throne in 175 B.C. As a former prisoner of Rome, he started small, but began his conquest to take over the Seleucid Empire. His contemporaries called him Antiochus Epimanes, which in Greek means, “the mad one.” The events described beginning in verse 9 happen between 168 – 165 B.C., when Antiochus tried to unify the kingdom by imposing Greek religion and culture onto the Jewish people.
Yeah, this is called Hellenization. We saw Alexander the Great starting it by resettling Greeks in conquered areas, but Antiochus Epimanes forced it onto the Jewish people. Let’s give a brief history of what Antiochus did to the Jewish people. We got some of this from the Apocrypha in the books of 1 & 2Maccabees and some from the historical records of Josephus, the most famous and reliable Jewish historian. We said that Antiochus rose out of the Seleucid empire which conquered the other 3 kingdoms after Alexander the Great divided the Greek empire into 4 smaller kingdoms.
The Seleucids were not tolerant of the Jewish religious practices. They wanted them completely hellenized. When Antiochus came to power in 175 BC, he insisted the Jews abolish their religious practices and become completely hellenized. And, of course, for the Jews, that would be idolatry. They were persecuted for not complying. Antiochus put his own image on the coins, along with Zeus, to indicate that he, too, was a god. He set up a gymnasium next to the Temple. May not sound like a big deal, but athletes in those days would compete naked. This was not only seen as a perversion by the Jewish people, but a desecration to be happening so close to the Temple.
And the ultimate insult, Antiochus forbade worship of God, abolished Jewish sacrifices, and set up an altar to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem and sacrificed pigs on it. And as we said, he murdered the high priest Onynus III. After this, the people revolted and the Maccabean Revolt began led by Mattathias Maccabeus, a Jewish priest, and his five sons. Just an interesting note, it was during the Macabeen Revolt that Hanaukkah has its origins.
Verse 13 of chapter 8 gives us a snapshot of one of the persecutions the Jewish people endured. It says, “Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me,[c] “For 2,300 evenings and mornings.
So this might be a little hard to understand, but what Gabriel is saying is that Antiochus will forbid the daily sacrifice the Jews gave to God every morning and every evening. Gabriel said it would last 2,300 evening and mornings. And we will talk about what that means in a minute, but first, let’s talk about why this is happening. Why would God allow Antiochus to rise up and oppress the Jews, forbidding them from worshipping God, sacrificing to God, and worst of all, allow Antiochus to desecrate the Temple of God? Verse 12 gives the answer. It says, “And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression,[b] and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper.”
And the text isn’t super clear here, so let’s dig in further. When we line this up with Ezra and Nehemiah who tell the story of when the captives came back, we see what rebellion the Israelites are guilty of. They were to reinstate the practice set forth back in Exodus of sacrificing a perfect, spotless lamb to God in the morning and evening. But instead of perfect, they were bringing the sickest, lamest, and weakest of their flocks. God is telling Daniel in this vision that because this, He is handing them over to Antiochus. Matthew Henry says this, “God would not have permitted it if his people had not provoked him to do so. It is by reason of transgression, the transgression of Israel, to correct them for that, that Antiochus is employed to give them all this trouble. The great transgression of the Jews after the captivity (when they were cured of idolatry) was a contempt and profanation of the holy things, snuffing at the service of God, bringing the torn and the lame for sacrifice, as if the table of the Lord were a contemptible thing, and therefore God sent Antiochus to take away the daily sacrifice and cast down the place of his sanctuary”
This punishment would last 2,300 evenings and mornings. There are two ways this can be interpreted. First, there were two sacrifices per day (morning and evening), so this is 2,300 half days. That would be 1,150 full days which is just over three years and which is a reference to the years 168 – 165 B.C. when persecution by Antiochus was at its worst. The second interpretation is that it is talking about 2,300 full days. That would translate into just over six years and would be the period between 171-165 B.C. That is also the period of persecution by Antiochus, but also includes when Antiochus killed Onynus III in 171 B.C. Onynus was the last high priest. He was killed because he refused to sell out to Antiochus and be his puppet. Whether the 2,300 mornings and evenings is 3 years or 6 years, the Temple was desecrated during that time.
But either way, as always, God does not leave His people without hope. Gabriel tells Daniel that the sanctuary would be restored and in verse 25 , he says, “he shall be broken—but by no human hand.”This verse reiterates the sovereignty of God. Just as it was God’s sovereignty that gave Antiochus dominion over God’s people, so it would be God’s sovereignty that takes him out. Antiochus, and every other evil ruler, will be destroyed, but it will be by the hand of God, and in the timing of God. How did God do it in the case of Antiochus?
Even though it should have never been, the Maccabean Revolt was eventually successful. And of, course that’s because the Hand of God was in it. According to the scroll of Antiochus, when Antiochus heard that his army had been defeated in Judea, he boarded a ship and fled to the coastal cities to the east. He was defeated there and he drowned himself in the sea. Remember the angel told Daniel that Antiochus would die, but not by any human hand. Pretty cool! After Antiochus died, the Seleucid Kingdom began to crumble and was defeated by Julius Caesar as we said last week. Rome was more tolerant of the Jewish people practicing their religion and the Temple was purified.
It seems odd that after Rome being the worst beast in chapter 7, the Greek Empire is the focus in chapter 8. (also in chapters 10 – 12). That’s why some think Greece is the 4th and worst beast. But the Biblical evidence definitely lends itself to Greece being beast #3 and Rome being beast #4. So why is Greece singled out in 4 chapters? It’s because the persecution to the Jewish people by the Greek Empire was so intense. Like we said, while Rome was bad, they did let the Jewish people practice their faith. But there’s more. First, as we looked at earlier the definition of Antichrist, Antiochus definitely fits the definition of an antichrist.
Right. And further. The Greek Empire had an enormous impact on Biblical History in the New Testament. The “Hellenization” that went on during the Greek Empire’s reign precipitated a major cultural change. For one, during this time, 72 Jewish Scholars translated the whole OT into Greek – that’s what the Septuagint is. Also, changing from being written in Hebrew, the New Testament was written in Greek. And while they may not seem like a big deal, It was! This is so cool to see what God was doing. While it seemed like the Greeks had the upper hand when oppressing and dominating the Jewish people, they were doing exactly what God needed them to do. By Hellenizing the surrounding areas, including making Greek the main language, God was preparing the world for Jesus. The use of the Greek language enabled the sharing of the gospel from India to Spain.
Along those same lines, Greek philosophy gave us the concept of the logos doctrine. It refers to a rational divine intelligence, which today is sometimes referred to as the "mind of God." The early Greek philosophical tradition known as Stoicism, held that every human participates in a universal and divinely ordained community, then used the Logos doctrine as a principle for human law and morality. The Stoics believed that to achieve freedom, happiness, and meaning one should attune one's life to the wisdom of God's will. John ran with this concept as a way to explain the nature of Christ in his gospel. If you recall John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word (which is the Greek word logos) and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Also, the town of Antioch became the launching point for Paul’s missionary journeys, and where “the disciples were called Christians according to Acts 11:26. So as you can see, there are lots of reason the Greek empire is singled out in Daniel.
All of it is just so cool and mind blowing! So back to Daniel and some takeaways for us. Both chapters 7 & 8 are filled with disturbing images. It would be easy to get spooked by them (and many have!) Others have made lots of money sensationalizing it all and making God’s Word look like a Marvel comic book. However, what we need to keep in mind, is that the beasts’ reign, even the future to us prophecy of the 4th beast, no matter how terrifying, is not the end of the story. There’s a famous sermon entitled, “Sunday’s coming.” Its message is simple, but profound and is applicable to all of us at any given time in our life. It may feel like Good Friday right now. Things may seem dark and it seems like any hope we had has been killed. We may feel like hiding in a locked room and never coming out. We may feel like we’ve gotten it all wrong and maybe God isn’t working for our good. Maybe He’s not even around. But, friends, after Good Friday, Easter Sunday came!
Amen! Easter Sunday wiped out all of the fears and hopelessness of Good Friday. It showed God always had every circumstance well in hand and was using everything to accomplish His plan and always had our good in mind. Never were we out of His thoughts. Easter Sunday’s coming means that none of us who are God’s people ever have to feel hopeless or scared or discouraged – ever! Even when it seems like evil is winning, its not – God is just allowing it to reign briefly to further His plan. This was the message of Daniel chapters 7 and 8, and it’s the message for us today. Even when it seems as if Friday will never end, take heart, Sunday is coming!
And I can’t think of a better note to end on! Thanks for tuning in!
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Have a blessed day!