1233.) Daniel 8

Dan8 Goat-Vs-Ram

Daniel 8   (NRSV)

Daniel resumes writing in Hebrew for the last five chapters.  He used Aramaic in 2:4 to 7:28.  (The Reformation Bible)

Vision of a Ram and a Goat

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after the one that had appeared to me at first. In the vision I was looking and saw myself in Susa the capital, in the province of Elam, and I was by the river Ulai. I looked up and saw a ram standing beside the river.

Vision of the Ram.  digital art by Ted Larson.

Vision of the Ram. digital art by Ted Larson.

It had two horns. Both horns were long, but one was longer than the other, and the longer one came up second. I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. All beasts were powerless to withstand it, and no one could rescue from its power; it did as it pleased and became strong.

In this same chapter (Daniel 8:20) this ram was clearly identified as representing the Medo-Persian Empire, which succeeded the Babylonian Empire.

It wasn’t a stretch to use a ram to represent the Medo-Persian Empire. “Ammianus Marcellinus, a fourth century historian, states that the Persian ruler bore the head of a ram as he stood at the head of his army.” (Wood) “The ram was the national emblem of Persia, a ram being stamped on Persian coins as well as on the headdress of Persian emperors.” (Strauss)

The ram was noted for the proportion of its two horns — one was higher than the other. This was an accurate prediction of the partnership between the Medes and the Persians, because the Persians were larger and stronger in the partnership. They also emerged after the Medes (the higher one came up last).

“The principle theatre of their wars, says Calmet, was against the Scythians, northward; against the Greeks, westward; and against the Egyptians, southward.” (Clarke)

–David Guzik, and all following comments in red

As I was watching, a male goat appeared from the west, coming across the face of the whole earth without touching the ground.

Vision of the Goat.  digital art by Ted Larson.

Vision of the Goat. digital art by Ted Larson.

The goat had a horn between its eyes. It came toward the ram with the two horns that I had seen standing beside the river, and it ran at it with savage force. I saw it approaching the ram. It was enraged against it and struck the ram, breaking its two horns. The ram did not have power to withstand it; it threw the ram down to the ground and trampled upon it, and there was no one who could rescue the ram from its power. Then the male goat grew exceedingly great; but at the height of its power, the great horn was broken, and in its place there came up four prominent horns toward the four winds of heaven.

In this same chapter (Daniel 8:21-22) this male goat was clearly identified with Greece and its horns are identified with the rulers of the Greek Empire.  This prophetic description of the male goat was proved to be accurate regarding the Greek Empire:

  • The Greek Empire rose from the west of previous empires.
  • The Greek Empire rose with great speed; Alexander defeated the Persian Empire in only three years. (suddenly . . . without touching the ground).
  • The Greek Empire had a notable ruler, Alexander the Great (a notable horn).
  • The Greek Empire had a famous war with the Medo-Persian Empire (I saw him confronting the ram).
  • The Greek Empire and the Medo-Persian Empire greatly hated each other (with furious power . . . moved with rage). Some of the greatest, fiercest battles of ancient history were fought between the Greeks and the Persians.
  • The Greek Empire conquered the Medo-Persian Empire (no one that could deliver the ram from his hand).
  • The reign of the notable leader of the Greek Empire was suddenly cut short when Alexander died at age thirty-three (the large horn was broken).
  • After the end of Alexander the Great’s reign, the Greek Empire was divided among four rulers (in place of it four notable ones came up).
  • The four rulers of the Greek Empire after Alexander ruled their own dominions, not the entire empire together (came up toward the four winds of heaven). 
  • The greatness of Alexander’s Empire was not only in its vast dominion but also in its cultural power. Alexander the Great was determined to spread Greek civilization, culture, and language across every land he conquered (the male goat grew very great).

As God guided history, He used Alexander’s passion to spread Greek culture to prepare the world for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of Alexander’s influence, koine (common) Greek became the common language of the civilized world – and the language of the New Testament.

Out of one of them came another horn, a little one, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the beautiful land (note: Palestine).

Dan8 coin

According to v. 23, this “little horn” symbolizes a wicked ruler who will arise in one of the four Greek kingdoms after a long interval of time (“at the latter end of their kingdom”).  The descriptions of the actions of this ruler (vs. 9-14; 23-25) indicate that he is Antiochus IV Epiphanes, ruler of the Selucid kingdom from 175-164 B.C.  (The Reformation Bible)

On the coin above:  the image is Antiochus IV, and the inscription in Greek is translated  “Antiochus, image of God, bearer of victory.”

10 It grew as high as the host of heaven. It threw down to the earth some of the host and some of the stars, and trampled on them. 11 Even against the prince of the host it acted arrogantly; it took the regular burnt offering away from him and overthrew the place of his sanctuary. 12 Because of wickedness, the host was given over to it together with the regular burnt offering; it cast truth to the ground, and kept prospering in what it did.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted to abolish traditional Jewish worship and Hellenize the Jewish people by force.  He blasphemed the Lord, caused the sacrifices to cease in Jerusalem, and desecrated the temple by offering a pig on the altar in the Most Holy Place.  He burned copies of Scripture. By some estimates he was responsible for the murder of more than 100,000 Jews.  All this he did with apparent success.

13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one that spoke, “For how long is this vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled?” 14 And he answered him, “For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

The temple was cleansed and rededicated under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus in December, 164 B.C.  (The Reformation Bible)

Gabriel Interprets the Vision

Gabriel and Daniel in the Citadel.  digital art by Ted Larson.

Gabriel and Daniel in the Citadel. digital art by Ted Larson.

15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I tried to understand it. Then someone appeared standing before me, having the appearance of a man, 16 and I heard a human voice by the Ulai, calling, “Gabriel, help this man understand the vision.”

The angel Gabriel is mentioned four times in Scripture:  twice he appears to Daniel (here and 9:21), once to Zechariah (Luke 1:19), and once to Mary (Luke 1:26).  His name means “God is mighty.”

17 So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I became frightened and fell prostrate. But he said to me, “Understand, O mortal, that the vision is for the time of the end.”

18 As he was speaking to me, I fell into a trance, face to the ground; then he touched me and set me on my feet. 19 He said, “Listen, and I will tell you what will take place later in the period of wrath; for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The male goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn between its eyes is the first king. 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.

23 At the end of their rule,
    when the transgressions have reached their full measure,
a king of bold countenance shall arise,
    skilled in intrigue.
24 He shall grow strong in power,
    shall cause fearful destruction,
    and shall succeed in what he does.
He shall destroy the powerful
    and the people of the holy ones.
25 By his cunning
    he shall make deceit prosper under his hand,
    and in his own mind he shall be great.
Without warning he shall destroy many
    and shall even rise up against the Prince of princes.
But he shall be broken, and not by human hands.

Some interpreters perceive the Antichrist in the description of the “little horn” of this chapter.  Antiochus IV is viewed as a type pointing forward to a later manifestation of satanic power in the person of the Antichrist.  (The Reformation Bible)

26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true. As for you, seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”

27 So I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days; then I arose and went about the king’s business. But I was dismayed by the vision and did not understand it.



The hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” was written by William Cowper (1731-1800).  It is re­port­ed­ly the last hymn Cow­per ev­er wrote, with a fas­cin­at­ing (though un­sub­stan­ti­at­ed) story be­hind it.

Cow­per oft­en strug­gled with de­press­ion and doubt. One night he de­cid­ed to com­mit su­i­cide by drown­ing him­self. He called a cab and told the driv­er to take him to the Thames Riv­er. How­ev­er, thick fog came down and pre­vent­ed them from find­ing the riv­er (ano­ther ver­sion of the story has the driv­er get­ting lost de­liber­ate­ly). After driv­ing around lost for a while, the cab­by fin­al­ly stopped and let Cow­per out. To Cowper’s sur­prise, he found him­self on his own door­step: God had sent the fog to keep him from kill­ing him­self. Even in our black­est mo­ments, God watch­es over us.

HERE  is Lori Sealy singing a hymn that Daniel would surely understand.

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs and works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace.
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

God moves in a mysterious way that’s often not my own
His wisdom guides each path I take, His mercy leads me home.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain.
God is His own interpreter and He will make it plain.

God moves in a mysterious way that’s often not my own.
His wisdom guides each path I take, His mercy leads me home.
Help me to trust when I don’t understand
Grant me the peace of resting in your plan.

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace.
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Grecian Empire takes Persia.    http://kenraggio.com/He-Goat-Vs-Ram.jpg
Larson.   http://home.earthlink.net/~danika13/Daniel%20Index.htm
coin.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/92/AntiochusIVEpiphanes.jpg

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