Daniel Chapter 8: The Defiance Of This King!
As we commence a study of chapter 8 we quickly discover the key verse. “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 Ch.8v25). Which, without doubt lets us see the blatant defiance of this king. A very clear change begins to emerge here in Daniel Ch.8. This begins what is known as the Jewish portion of the book of Daniel, which relates primarily to the Jews and Jerusalem. The interested student of Prophecy will, in his careful study of a book like Daniel, become aware certain changes take place in its writing. For example, from Daniel Ch.1v1-2v3 it is the familiar Old Testament Hebrew language, which is used, but from Daniel Ch.2v4-7v28 we find in full flow the Aramaic language. Then comes another change from Daniel Ch.8v1-12v13 the Hebrew language in use once more. There are of course very good reasons for such changes. The first section Daniel Ch.1v1-2v3 is to do with the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians and their deportation to a foreign land; so it is the Hebrew language employed. The second section which runs from Daniel Ch.2v4-7v28 give us the details of the events which have to do mostly with the Gentile rule, tracing of course the times of the Gentiles, where we discover the popular language of the Gentile people of that day was of course, Aramaic, and thus it was used in this section. The third section, which is the study before us just now, Daniel Ch.8v1-12v13 is taken up largely with the Jewish people and their place in God’s wonderful Prophetic Plan for them. Thus there is a return to the familiar Old Testament Hebrew language. Now, what I have called the period and the place the eighth chapter of Daniel contains a different kind of little prophecy than any we have seen before. In the other prophetic sections of the book we have had a more or less direct view of future events brought before us, Daniel Ch. 2 was a long-range telescopic view, looking down the whole range of time beginning with Daniel's own day and running on down to the end beyond our own day. Part of it is now fulfilled and part of it is yet unfulfilled. In Chapter 7 we had what we might liken to a zoom camera approach, which moved into the events of the last days before our Lord's return, wherein we saw the condition of the earth politically, and especially centering on the Mediterranean Sea. We were stirred to note that events of our own day were perhaps beginning to produce the final shape of things. But now, in Chapter 8, we see events, which were future as far as Daniel was concerned, but have since been fulfilled in history. Some three hundred years after the prophet Daniel uttered these words, they were, for the most part, fulfilled. Yet that historic fulfillment of the past becomes in turn a prophecy of a further and greater fulfillment yet to come. This kind of double fulfillment is not unique to the book of Daniel. There are several other places in Scripture where we have it. Perhaps the most familiar to us is in the New Testament, when Jesus, addressing his disciples, predicted the fall of Jerusalem which occurred only forty years later when the Roman armies came in 70 A.D. and took the city. He had predicted that capture most clearly. But, in turn, that historical fulfillment was a picture of a far larger and more savage attack upon Jerusalem, which is yet to come, when the nations will again ring the city and Jerusalem will once again fall. At that time its deliverance will be by the return of Jesus Christ again to the Mount of Olives. Thus we have an historic fulfillment, which in turn becomes a prediction of another event. That is exactly what we find in the eighth chapter of Daniel.
The chapter falls very easily into two parts. First, there is the vision, which the prophet had, and its historic fulfillment. It will help us to see how history records the accurate fulfillment of this vision just as the Word of God has declared continually. Second, we shall look at the future application of this, which may well prove to be immediately before us in time. “In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar, a vision appeared unto me, even unto me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; and when it came to pass, when I saw, 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 8vv1-2).
This gives us the time and locale of the vision or as I have already stated, the period and the place. It was two years after the vision recorded in Chapter 7. This new vision came in the third year of Belshazzar while Babylon was yet in power, before the Medes and Persians had come in. Daniel is, either in vision or in person, in the capital of Persia, Shushan, and standing by the river Ulai. This seems to indicate that he is about to witness the flow of power from Persia toward the West, which had been predicted clearly in Daniel's previous visions.
Now we come to the first part of the visions: What I have simply called the revelation of the ram. “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. 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 Ch. 8vv3-4). We do not need to wonder what this means. In this case we have it clearly interpreted for us by the angel Gabriel, as Daniel indicates a little further on. “And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O, our God hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name. And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God” (Dan 9vv15-20).
That is very clear and definite is it not? The interpreting angel has identified this great ram as the Medio-Persian Empire, which was to follow Babylon upon the scene of world power. And yet, though he does definitely identify it historically, he also uses certain suggestive phrases, which indicate that there is also to be a far distant fulfillment. For instance, he says that it will apply to "the time of the end," and that phrase is consistently used in Scripture as referring to the end immediately preceding the return of Christ. Also the angel calls it "the latter time of the indignation." The indignation, as used in Scripture, refers to God's indignation over his people Israel. It links with another phrase that appears in the prophets, which designates that period of time which Jesus called "the great tribulation," as "the time of Jacob's trouble," the time when Israel will again undergo the indignation of God. Finally, one other phrase in Daniel Ch.8v19 speaks of "the appointed time of the end," and this too suggests some further future fulfillment beyond the time of the Medio-Persian empire.
Let us now return to the rest of the vision.
“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: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with anger 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. Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven” (Daniel Ch. 8vv5-8). Again the interpreting angel makes this symbolism clear. This I call the galloping goat “and the rough goat is the king of Grecia and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power” (Daniel Ch8v21).
We know from history that this is a description of the rise of the Grecian empire under Alexander the Great, which to us is ancient history. The brilliant son of Philip of Macedon in his late teens became the leader of his father's armies. He swept through Greece and conquered that area and then challenged the power of Persia. In several great battles he overcame the Persian armies. They were quite unable to stand before him, as this vision depicts. Alexander conquered the lands of Persia and Babylon, and then swept south toward Egypt. There is an interesting footnote to history, which comes in here. Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that as Alexander the Great moved toward Egypt with his armies he came near the city of Jerusalem. He threatened to take the city, but when the high priests in Jerusalem knew that Alexander was near they took copies of the book of Daniel and went out to meet him. Josephus tells us that they showed Alexander this very prophecy. When Alexander saw that it had been clearly predicted that he would overcome the Persian armies and become the ruler of the world, he decided to spare the city of Jerusalem and instead enriched it. There is no confirmation of this incident from other historians, but it is true that Alexander did not capture Jerusalem but did enrich the city. This may well be one of the earliest and most interesting applications of prophecy to specific events. Historians know that Alexander the Great went on to Babylon after subduing Egypt and at the age of 33 indulged himself in a great drunken feast with his generals and died of a combination of malaria and acute alcoholism. Though conqueror of the world, he was unable to conquer his own passions. So, at the age of 33 he died, and as this passage indicates, the great horn was broken and four horns rose in its place, which are a picture of the four generals among whom Alexander's kingdom was divided. This is all fulfilled in history. We have still more history: “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. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and he took the daily sacrifice away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And a host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced, and prospered. 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? And he said unto me, unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” (Daniel Ch. 8vv9-14). This too has already been fulfilled. We know that one of the four generals of Alexander who shared the division of the kingdom was named Seleucus. He took as his portion the kingdom of Syria including much of Asia Minor, or Turkey, as it is known today. Another of the generals, Ptolemy, took Egypt. These two generals soon had become bitter enemies. History records a longstanding controversy between the two dynasties, Syria to the north of Palestine, and Egypt on the south. They fought back and forth using Palestine as the battlefield for a long period of time. The eighth king in the dynasty of the Seleucids was a man named Antiochus Epiphanies, who reigned from about 170 B.C. His capital city was Antioch and was named for him. (Antioch appears in the New Testament as the place where believers were first called Christians, (Acts Ch.11v26). This man, Antiochus Epiphanies (Epiphanies means "great") was such a wicked and vicious individual that the Jews nicknamed him "Antiochus Epimanes," a play on his name. Epimanes means "Madman," and it was thus they identified him. He struggled with Egypt, as did his predecessors before him and, in the course of his warfare, he conquered Jerusalem. Because he was angered at the Jews for some insult they had given him, he defied the high priests and entered into the sacred temple. That is described here by the phrase, "Yea, he [the little horn] magnified himself even to the Prince of the host [the high priest] (Daniel Ch8v11a). He actually erected a pagan altar in the temple at Jerusalem and offered upon it a sow in sacrifice, an unclean animal. He took the broth of the sow and sprinkled it throughout the sanctuary, thus defiling the whole sanctuary. Then, as a final insult, he erected a statue of Jupiter in the holy place. This, of course, brought to an end the twice-daily sacrifice called "the continual burnt offering," which Daniel here predicted was to be taken away for a definite period of time. The text says that it shall be taken away for "two thousand and three hundred days" (Daniel Ch 8vv11b-14). Many have misread that to mean twenty-three hundred days; but it does not mean days, and it does not say days in the original. What it refers to is not days, but sacrifices, morning and evening sacrifices. The continual burnt offering was offered once each evening and once each morning, every day, so twenty-three hundred evenings and mornings is eleven-hundred and fifty days, just a little over three years. Anyone who has read the apocryphal Book of the Maccabees knows, Jewish history records that the offering was taken away for a period of a little over three years. Finally, Judas Maccabeeus and his sons rose in revolt and led the people of Israel to retake Jerusalem, cleansed the sanctuary and restored the offerings at the end of eleven-hundred and fifty days, exactly as predicted. It is all history, but I do not want to dwell on it longer for I want to come to that which has application to us. We might think that this ancient fulfillment ended the matter, were it not for these suggestive phrases of the angel we noted before, and for the fact that the Lord Jesus himself, in Matthew Ch 24, refers to this very prophecy. Notice that we read an unusual phrase in Daniel Ch.8 "how long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolate..." or, more literally, "the abomination of desolation" (Daniel Ch. 8v13a).
In the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew the Lord Jesus, speaking of a yet coming time, said to the disciples "when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place" (Matthew 24v15), then, he said, they would know it is time to get out of the city. Do not waste any time, he urges, do not even go back for your coat, just go, because then shall be great tribulation such as has not been since the world began. Now that was spoken more than one hundred and sixty-five years after Antiochus Epiphanies had desecrated the temple, so it clearly establishes a yet future fulfillment of this historic event. With that in mind, let us turn to what the angel says about this future fulfillment: This is what I am calling the horror of the little horn. “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. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. 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. And the vision of the evening and the morning, which was told, is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days” (Daniel Ch. 8vv23-26). There are two factors here that mark the time of this fulfillment.
Notice firstly, the angel says that it shall be "at the latter end of their rule," i.e., the rulers that would control the area of the country once dominated by Antiochus Epiphanies. It will be in the latter end of their rule. This suggests strongly the reappearance of the nation Syria in history. It is very striking that a nation of Syria did not exist for centuries until 1944 when the French mandate over this area was dissolved and Syria once again appeared as a nation in the midst of the world. Its history as a modern nation dates only from 1944.
Second, we are told here that it would be a time "when the transgressors had reached their full measure." This suggests the final crisis of history when transgression, or, as it is described in other places, corruption and violence, lawlessness, is so widespread and so intense that, as Jesus said in the Olivetti Discourse, it would be once again like the days of Noah. This was the characteristic mark of the days of Noah, widespread corruption and violence over the earth. At that time a very singular individual appears. According to the description here he has two outstanding personal characteristics. The first of his personal character traits, think about the appearance of the king he is bold in appearance; "fierce" is the way it is translated in some versions. He will appear when “the transgressors are come to the full”, can we imagine what our world will be like to live in at such an amazing time of evil? And yet he has a commanding presence, a very intense personality, with a strong, magnetic appeal to people, thus, bold in his countenance to the degree that thousands will be drawn to him. He is highly knowledgeable; he has the ability to understand riddles. This does not mean he enjoys conundrums or that he is good at riddle games. This is really a word describing the enigmas of life, the mysteries of life. He is a skilled psychologist, if you like. He understands what makes people tick, why they behave the way they do, and how society is structured. Using this knowledge he is able to influence people powerfully and cause them to be absolutely obedient to his evil commands. That phrase in the Authorized Version “understanding dark sentences”, means he will be able to interpret the mind of Satan, I mean how powerfully evil is that?
The second of his personal character traits we are told displays the performance of the king, "his power shall be great." In the A.V. these words, "but not with his power” are very potent. We learn from this that he will exercise derived power, power not his own. He borrows it from another source. But it will be great power, and will result; we are told, in fearful and widespread destruction. Especially will it be aimed "against the mighty and holy people" (Daniel Ch.8v24b); those who honour and love God in that day will feel the fierce wrath of this evil, satanically empowered, individual. Just as we found that the little horn of Chapter 7 (the Roman political ruler who heads the Western Confederacy of nations in the last day) was to be identified in Chapter 13 of the book of Revelation as the first beast, so we will find that this little horn of Daniel Chapter 8 is also identified in Revelation 13. In Verse 11 of Chapter 13 in Revelation, John says, “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the power of the first beast before him, and causes the earth and them to dwell on it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” (Revelation Ch.13vv11-12). Here is another individual who exercises power in conjunction with the great political ruler of the last day. Now come back to Daniel, and let us recall the second characteristic of the little horn in Daniel Chapter 8. “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 he destroy many; he shall also stand up against the prince of princes, but he shall be broken without hand” (Daniel Ch.8v25).
Plainly this man is marked by his ability to control others by deceitful propaganda. He makes deceit to prosper, which is a clear description of propaganda. He is the great propagandist. We are not told exactly how he does it but in this amazing age of technology he will have no difficulty in getting his message out, however he does it he will influence many in varied ways and be sure of this, his influence will be great. If we turn again to Revelation 13 we will find how this accords exactly with the second beast: “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that, as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation Ch.13vv13-17). What a remarkable propaganda accomplishment, by which men are deceived and made to believe something that is not true. The "image" is very significant here. Remember that Antiochus Epiphanies, back in history, defiled the sanctuary by erecting an image of Jupiter. Put these passages together and it appears to me that we have a clear description of what occurs in the last days. There has always been a question among Bible scholars as to which of these two beasts in Revelation 13 is actually the Antichrist. In my judgment, the answer is: The first one. It is his image, made to be alive, i.e., given a form of life (perhaps this suggests something of what scientists will be able to accomplish in their efforts to produce life), which will be erected by the second beast in the temple to be built in Jerusalem and thus will be the "abomination which makes desolate," which, Jesus said, will be the mark to indicate the beginning of the terrible judgment of God. If that is the case, we can see how these two personages work closely together, the one a great political power whose image appears in the temple to be worshipped as God though he does not personally appear there, but all is done by the agency of the second beast who is the fulfillment of the little horn of Daniel 8. Now, according to Daniel, "he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes." This can be none other than Jesus Christ himself. He is given the title, King of kings and Lord of lords, and Prince of the kings of the earth, in the New Testament. This second beast, the little horn of Daniel 8, faces, therefore, the same doom as the first beast of Revelation 13. Their mutual fate is described in Revelation 19: “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation Ch.19vv19-20). Thus "by no human hand he is broken." Daniel and John, writing six hundred years apart, both detail for us these two powerful figures who will deceive and amaze the whole world at the time of the end. Returning to Daniel now, attention is called to the effect this vision had upon Daniel himself.
“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 Ch.8v27). There is something highly suggestive here. This great prophet was sickened by what he saw was to happen on earth, but he did not let that stop him; he rose and went about the king's business. When I read that I could not help but think of the words of the Lord Jesus to his disciples when he outlined what would happen in the future. He said to them, "Occupy till I come" (Luke Ch.19v13b), i.e., go about the king's business until the king returns. Speaking at a Prophetic Conference recently someone said to me, "If I knew for sure that these were the last days, I would live a lot differently than I am." Would you? Well, it should not make any real difference. These events have been possible in any generation since the Lord's first appearance on earth. God could have touched the spring that released the forces that would bring about these events in any generation, that is why every generation has expected it in its time, but since the Word of God reveals to us our responsibility in the light of these events, then every single Christian who has ever lived for these two thousand years will be judged as to whether he has taken them seriously or not. Whether it was the actual time of the last days or not, does not really make any difference, the forces that ultimately produce these events have been at work in every generation, and the word has been given to us to make clear what our reaction to these should be. It does not make any difference then whether we live in the actual last days or not; our reaction to this revelation will be what reveals how much we believe God and are faithful. That highlights to me the great question which confronts us as we serve the Lord, the question I am facing anew in my own life these days: How available am I to God? How much have I yielded myself to the rights of the Lord Jesus in my life? Have I presented my body as a living sacrifice unto him? Paul said in 2 Corinthians, "we are not to live any longer to ourselves but unto him who for us died and was raised again" (2 Corinthians Ch.5v15). "We are bought with a price," 1 Corinthians Ch.6v20). We no longer belong to ourselves; we no longer have the right to run our lives as we please. This is the great announcement of the Word of God. We have been bought with a price, we are no longer our own. Therefore, the only reasonable thing we can do is to present ourselves to him to use in his work. That is what gives life real meaning. That is what gives life reality and value in the light of eternity. So the question I leave with you as we come to the end of this amazing chapter is: Have you presented your body to him to teach, to help, to love, to learn, to pray, to play, for his name's sake? Don’t let us be those who are continually at ease in Zion but let us truly determine to be continually about the Master’s business even unto death or whatever be allowed to come into our lives may we determine to be so given up and over to our dear Saviour and Lord we will spend and be spent to the glory of our eternal God for the remainder of the time allotted to us.
Laid on thine altar, O my Lord, Divine; accept my gift this day, for Jesus' sake; I have no jewels to adorn thy shrine, no world-famed sacrifice to make, And here I bring within my trembling hands this will of mine, a thing that seemeth small, yet thou alone canst understand that when I yield thee this, I yield thee all! James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers.