Bible Book of Daniel, Part 6 - Chapter 8
This chapter describes Daniel's second vision, with the previous part four covering his first one in chapter seven.
It’s two years later, in the third year of the new king Belshazzar, with Daniel now in his seventies:
“In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.” – Daniel 8:1
In short, it’s about two animals, a ram and a goat, along the river Ulai in Shushan (now Iran), approximately 150 miles from Babylon:
“And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai” – Daniel 8:2
Applying the same Historicist perspective as previously, this focuses on two of the four kingdoms already highlighted in chapter two (Nebuchadnezzar’s dream) and chapter seven (Daniel’s first dream), with more details and timings now about the later ‘little horn’ period.
As we'll see, this is specifically confirmed as the mid-two kingdoms at the end of the chapter.
It causes Daniel to be face-down with fear and be sick as he struggles to comprehend what all this means at the ‘time of the end’:
“And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.” – Daniel 8:27
The Two Animals
One of these animals attacks the other and is pictured on the display below and consecutively after the other.
A ram first appears with two horns, one of these horns appearing later and becoming taller than the first one:
“Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.” – Daniel 8:3
This matches the second Medo Persia kingdom and the two horn kingdoms of the Medes and Persians, the latter king being after and more powerful.
This ram becomes powerful with no opposition from the West, North, or South:
“I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.” – Daniel 8:4
This matches this kingdom's Eastern location, which then attacked the northern, southern, and western parts (compared to the bear in the previous chapter having three ribs in its mouth).
Later in the chapter, this is confirmed explicitly as the Medo-Persian kingdom:
“The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.” – Daniel 8:20
These match with the second kingdom identified in chapters two and seven. Daniel is now coming to the end of the current Babylonian kingdom and therefore is not mentioned here because of the emphasis on what will happen in the later ones.
A goat then appears from the West, not even touching the ground:
“And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground:...” – Daniel 8:5(a)
This also is clearly identified as Greece, later on, and the picture of the fast animal not even touching the ground symbolising Alexander the Great's swift conquering of the world:
“And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.” – Daniel 8:21
This goat has one 'great' horn, which matches the central figure of Alexander the Great in the kingdom's victories:
"and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.” – Daniel 8:5(b)
This goat is then attacking the previous ram, just like Greece conquering Medo-Persia. This one-horn goat conquers the two-horn ram:
“And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.” – Daniel 8:7
Also, this is pictured over a river, with Alexander’s troops learning to swim and cross waters in their ventures.
This horn, though, is described as suddenly breaking at the height of this kingdom's great rule:
“Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken;” - Daniel 8:8(a)
We then see four new horns cropping up after this first horn is gone, which mirrors how the Greek kingdom was split into four areas after Alexander’s death, as detailed in chapter seven (Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy and Selencus).
“and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.” – Daniel 8:8(b)
Therefore, these two animals are placed next to the other four animals and metals on the display to correspond to when these kingdoms took effect in time:
Describing the Little Horn
We then have another ‘little horn’ appearing. Many scholars agree that this is the same little horn described in the last chapter seven after the ten horns on the fourth awful beast, although other interpretations are explained later.
“And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.” – Daniel 8:9
Logically this makes sense – if it were entirely different, then another symbol would have been used; plus, as we'll see, they represent the same thing.
This little horn's spiritual and religious aspect from chapter seven is now being emphasised through this vision.
Also, the two animals in this vision of a ram and goat, are specifically used by the Israelites as sacrifices in the temple, whereas previous animals were not.
Scholars get technical in looking at further profound meanings of the descriptions here. For example, the male and female tense of words can imply the original pure-pagan Roman empire and then evolved religious one afterwards.
Also, the Hebrew meaning of specific words like ‘daily’ and ‘sanctuary’ can be analysed, and more than one vision type is being referred to here.
To try and keep it simple, we’ll compare the additional details here about the little horn from the ten key features of the little horn in the previous chapter.
Again, applying the same Historicist interpretation of scripture as former Reformers, this identifies Catholicism as the religious system opposed to God, His way of Salvation, and His people.
Point 1 to 3 – emergence from Rome from 538 AD
With the beasts confirming the two previous kingdoms of Medo-Persia and Greece, it's logical that this prophecy will help continue into the following Rome kingdom until the end of time, which was the most dramatic one in the last chapter seven.
This little horn is described as coming from ‘one’ of them, although it’s not clear whether this is meant to mean coming from the previous four horns or the four winds:
“and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven. Out of one of them came another horn,” – Daniel 8:8(a) – 9(b)
There are differing views on this, but either way, this takes effect after the last four-part split of the Greek kingdom just before Rome took over (one of these four Generals, Cassander, was strong and where Rome was said to have been birthed from).
This little horn also grew 'exceedingly great', meaning a severe power even mightier than the previous Alexander the Great, which was 'very great', or the Medo Persian one described as just 'great':
“And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great” – Daniel 8:9(a)
Therefore, this matches the horn from the following Roman empire, as no other kingdom power with such greatness exists.
Later on, it’s described as a king taking control over the former ones:
“And in the latter time of their kingdom, When the transgressors have reached their fullness, A king shall arise, Having fierce features, Who understands sinister schemes.” – Daniel 8:23
We’re also provided with important details about its geography:
“And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.” – Daniel 8:9
This matched the pagan imperial Roman era as it conquered the region – based in the North West and took space in the south (Egypt), in the east (around Syria), and then the Jewish ‘pleasant’ land.
This matches the detail of this growth in chapter seven – the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD into ten European countries, and then the empire-wide authority of the Pope and Christendom via Rome from 538 AD when three of these regions had been subdued.
Point 4 – it grows big
There are multiple verses about how this horn started small but soon ‘grew exceedingly’ and ‘grew up’, which caused it to be ‘prospered.’
“And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great…And it grew up to the host of heaven….He did all this and prospered” – Daniel 8:9, 10, 12
Later verses also describe further victories:
“His power shall be mighty...And shall prosper and thrive; He shall destroy the mighty...cause deceit to prosper...exalt himself in his heart...destroy many in their prosperity...even rise against the Prince of princes” – Daniel 8: 24 & 25
Point 5 – until the End of Time
There is a reference to these matters being applicable right at the ‘time of the end’ where the ‘end shall be’:
“Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision... I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.” – Daniel 8:17(b) & 7:19 (b)
Point 6 – a person figurehead
A specific king and person are identified as the lead, like the face in the little horn of Daniel chapter seven:
“And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand, and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes, but he shall be broken without hand.” – Daniel 8:25
Point 7 – words against God
Being against the Prince of the host is referred to, which is Christ Himself (see the Symbols Checklist)
“Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host...he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes…” – Daniel 8: 11 & 25
Also, further details are provided about how God and His method of Salvation are opposed. The actual place of the sanctuary and how God forgives sins are mentioned, with both this and the truth of the gospel being cast down by this false belief system:
“Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him, the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down. And a host was given him against the daily sacrifice because of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground, and it practised, and prospered.” – Daniel 8:11-12
The practical ‘daily’ application of blood and God’s Word to deal with sins in this sanctuary is also referred to as the ‘daily sacrifice’.
Point 8 – something different
In the previous chapter, the little horn was a different stout type, representing the new religious-state mix evolving from the pure pagan ones previously. Here it is described as having a fierce countenance and dark sentence:
“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.” – Daniel 8:23
Point 9 – changes things
In chapter seven, this little horn tried to change times and laws; here, it shall cause craft to prosper through its policy:
“And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart,” – Daniel 8:25(a)
Point 10 – it attacks God’s people
This is described through heaven's ‘host’ and ‘stars’, representing God’s believers with destiny in heaven and currently on earth (see the Symbols Checklist).
Their heavenly status is challenged and cast down, and then they're trampled upon:
“And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart,...and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people....and by peace shall destroy many:” – Daniel 8: 10, 24 and 25
Who the little horn is
Regarding who this little horn is, the Historicist interpretation sees this as emphasising Catholicism and Papacy as the religious evolution of the Roman Empire forming a doctrine against God and His people.
There is a separate post here looking at the doctrinal differences with Catholicism.
The original ten features in chapter seven identify this and are then reconfirmed here, emphasising the spiritual side against God and His people.
The alternative mainstream Futurist interpretation of prophecy sees the following differences in how this little horn is interpreted. Most scholars agree on what the two beasts in this chapter represent with such clear explanations in verses twenty and twenty-one. The main differences in the little horn's interpretation are:
1. Whilst the little horn in the previous chapter seven is seen as a future antichrist individual still to appear at the end of time, the little horn in this chapter has a different interpretation of a specific Greek king called Antiochus Epiphanes at the end of the Old Testament. It is seen as explicitly coming from one of the four horns/generals of the Greek kingdom here, with Antiochus being a Greek king (however, this is still several generations later).
2. With the language from this chapter onwards in Daniel being in Hebrew and the former ones in Aramaic, this chapter and therefore the little horn is seen as relating to the Jews and how Antiochus attacked Jerusalem and the temple. In contrast, the little horn in the previous chapter is assumed to be more for Gentile nations and people.
There is a post here with more details about this king Antiochus Epiphanes and comparing these above ten characteristics of the little horn to him. Focus is given to how these four Greek Generals affected God's people and land as they Hellenised and spread their Greek culture, which led to this evil king against them.
3. However, reference to the little horn later on in this chapter is assumed to refer back to a future antichrist individual like what it was in chapter seven. A Duel application is therefore assumed here - a Greek king in the first half, and then a future one still to come in the second half (which the first king was a forerunner for).
Indications identified of this second future application are the king being fierce (verse 23), and being broken without human hands and God directly in the future.
4. The 'saints' are interpreted as being Israel, both with the former Antiochus Epiphanes and Jews in Jerusalem and the future full ant-christ in a reestablished Israel at the end of time after Christians have already been raptured to heaven. This even includes the 'Prince of the Host', which surely means Christ, which was well after Antiochus, and the 'host of heaven' being the Jews that fell from the Hellenised apostasy through this king.
New Time Frame
We are then provided with a time period relating to this little horn and this new antichrist system.
The time frame in the previous chapter described how long the little horn would attack God’s people – this one highlights the spiritual significance of what it is trying to do against God and His plan of Salvation.
Although we can’t begin to date this until the following chapter, it is important to note now, as two spiritual beings are seen by Daniel discussing between themselves how long this will last:
“Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” – Daniel 8:13
This is more than just Daniel being curious – it’s specific detail being discussed and highlighted between heavenly beings.
Daniel then receives a clear answer from one of these beings in the following verse of 2,300 days:
“And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” – Daniel 8:14
On the Display there is a time frame to place on here, although this can't be placed on until the following chapter and the actual start and end dates are known:
It describes the ‘sanctuary’, which must mean the one in heaven, as the earthly Jerusalem one was destroyed at this point with believers in exile in Babylon. Also, the original Hebrew word here implies the original heavenly one.
This is where Christ is now ministering, the ‘Prince’ being attacked in this chapter.
It then refers to ‘cleansing’ of this – meaning restoration of, cleaned up, and being vindicated.
The vision then develops into Daniel seeking the meaning of this whole chapter’s vision, with someone appearing and asking Gabriel to interpret this for him.
Further detail is provided about the two animals and the little horn as described above. However, nothing else is revealed about the 2,300 days (evenings and mornings) time period, which is explained in chapter nine.
Turning to the main Futurist interpretation of these prophecies, this time period is assumed to relate to Antiochus Epiphanes as the first version of the little horn.
This focuses on the literal attack on Jerusalem, the temple and God's people at this time. The two angelic beings are asking how long this will last, specifically against the Jews opportunity to resort back to regular sacrifices in the temple after it is cleaned up from the attacks.
The post here about Antiochus Epiphanes matching the above ten features of the little horn also includes this eleventh detail as well. This outlines the fact that there is no constant application of these prophetic 2,300 days/evenings, pus as mentioned already, the connection of the start date being given in the following chapter nine.
Daniel is then told to close up this matter which refers to a long time in the future.