The Prophetic Symbols
of Daniel 8
Where was Daniel at the time that this vision was given to him?
"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.
In this vision, what did Daniel see first?
"Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns." Verse 3.
What was next shown to him?
"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 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. Therefore the he goat waxed very great." Verses 5-8.
When the notable horn was broken, what came up next?
"When he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds." Verse 8.
What important horn came out of one of these horns?
"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." Verses 9-10.
What command was then given to an angel that stood nearby?
"I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision." Verse 16.
What were the first words that the angel then spoke to the prophet?
"Understand, a son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision." Verse 17.
NOTE: These words of the angel, "At the time of the end shall be the vision," cannot possibly mean that it would be necessary to wait until the time of the end before the ram and the he-goat appeared upon the stage of action, for the angel said plainly that the ram with the two horns represented the Medo-Perslan Empire and that the goat represented Greece. (Verses 20-21.) And it was in the third year of Belshazzar, before the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and Persians that the vision was given.
But a long time period, is included in this important prophecy, and the angel informed the prophet that the events of the vision, including those to occur during and at the end of the great time period, would reach far beyond Daniel's time, even to the time of the end; that is into an epoch which would find its climax in the second advent of Christ.
Some there are who would have us believe that the wonderful prophecies and the grand truths of the Book of Daniel cannot be understood, and therefore that it is a waste of time to study them. But while Daniel himself says he was astonished at the vision, "but none under stood it,"we find the angel saying to him at a later time that the sealing of these prophecies was only "till the time of the end."
"But thou, 0 Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." "And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none shall understand." Daniel 12:4.9-10.
Though some of its prophecies were sealed until the time of the end, there were portions of Daniel's prophecies that were to be understood in Christ's day. In Jesus' wonderful discourse to His disciples regarding the signs of His coming (recorded In Matthew 24), reference is made to Daniel's prophecy, and the exhortation is given, "Whoso readeth, let him understand."
The Book of Daniel, then, can be understood, and it was written for our special benefit. We may find comfort and hope in its marvelous predictions, so accurately fulfilled, knowing that the sublime events yet future will surely come to pass as the prophecy has foretold.
In a few words Daniel's prophecy speaks volumes. Into a few short chapters is compressed the history, written in advance, which, as we look back upon it, spans more than twenty-three long centuries. Not having before him the pageant of the centuries which history now brings to view, it was not to be expected that the aged prophet would be able to comprehend all that God through visions and the words of the heavenly messenger revealed to him. The events of his own day and time he could well understand, but though given a bird's eye view of the sweep of the centuries, the peaks of future history 'so far distant from him were beyond his ken.
But the angel had been commanded, "Make.this man to understand the vision," and he therefore proceeded to explain the meaning of the symbols which the prophet had seen. And looking back upon the prophecy from this distant time, we can see how accurately the divine mind guided the prophet's hand in depicting the startling world events which have taken place from that day to this.
Did the angel then explain about the ram and the he-goat?
"The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia." Verses 20-21.
NOTE: We have already read the words of Scripture prophecy which describe the fury with which the goat would attack the ram.
"The 'goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth.' That is, Greece lay west of Persia and attacked from that direction. The Greek army swept everything on the face of the earth before it.
"The goat 'touched not the ground.' Such was the marvelous celerity of his movements that he seemed to fly from point to point with the swiftness of the wind. This same characteristic of speed is indicated by the four wings of the leopard in the vision of Daniel 7, representing the same nation.
"Alexander the Notable Horn. --The notable horn between his eyes is explained in verse 21 to be the first king of the Macedonian Empire. This king was Alexander the Great.
"A concise account of the overthrow of the Persian Empire by Alexander is given in verses 6 and 7. The battles between the Greeks and the Persians are said to have been exceedingly fierce. Some of the scenes recorded in history vividly bring to mind the figure used in the prophecy --a ram standing before the river, and the goat running toward him 'in the fury of 'his power.' Alexander first vanquished the generals of Darius at the River Granicus in Phrygia. He next attacked and routed Darius at the passes of lssus in Cilicia, and afterward defeated him on the plains of Arbela in Syria. This latter battle occurred in 331 B.C., and marked the fall of the Persian Empire. By this event Alexander became master of the whole country. Concerning verse 6 -'He [the goat] 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' --Thomas Newton says: 'One can hardly read these words without having some image of Darius's army standing and guarding the River Granicus, and of Alexander. on the other side with his forces plunging in, swimming across the stream, and rushing on the enemy with all the fire and fury that can be imagined.'" --Uriah Smith, The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, pp 152-153.
What is represented by the four horns that come up in place of the broken one?
"Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power." Verse 22.
NOTE: The ram was said to represent the Persian Empire, the he-goat the Greek or Macedonian Empire. The great horn that was broken symbolized the first king, Alexander the Great. Alexander died In the prime of life and at the height of his conquests, being only about thirty-three years old at the time of his decease.
It is said that as a result of a drunken debauch he was seized with a violent fever, and from this he died eleven days later, June 13, 323 BC. Thus it truly came to pass, as Daniel had foretold, that "when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four." How accurate the prophecy! How true the historical facts! Concerning the breakup of Alexander's empire we read:
"The story of the Successors, in the tradition, is the story of a struggle for power among the generals. War went on almost wlthout intermission from 321 to 301 B.C.; and except for the brief episode of Antipater's regency, the conflict was one between the centrifugal forces within the empire, represented by the satraps (territorial dynasts), and whatever central power stood for unity. The conflict falls into two divisions; in the first the central power represents the kings, but after 316 it means Antigons, who claimed personally to stand in Alexander's place. But though the actors changed, the issues ware the same throughout; the end was complete victory for the dynasts." --The Cambridge Ancient History (1928-39 ed.), Vol. 6, p. 462. (Used by permission of the Cambridge University Press.)
"The death of Eumenes left Antigonus in virtual control of Asia. . . . His aim was to obtain the whole empire for, himself without reference to the royal house. . . But he kept up appearances; . . . he claimed to act for Alexander's son, and his army made him regent . . . The old central power was dead; but it had merely been replaced by another, far more energetic, ambitious, and businesslike, and controlled by a single brain. . . . Seleucus persuaded Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Cassander, that Antigonus' ambition threatened their very existence, and the three rulers formed a definite alliance. Cassander [held] . . .Macadonia,. . .Ptolemy . . . Egypt;. . . Lysimachus . . . held the Dardanelles crossings. . . The history of the next four years, 315-312, is that of the first war between Antigonus and the coalition." --Ibid., pp. 482-483.
Ptolemy after his victory [over Antigonus] also took the title of king (305) and was followed by Cassander, Lysimachus, and Seleucus. The title affirmed their independent rule in their respective territories; Antigonus of course did not recognize this." --Ibid., pp. 498-490. "The four kings renewed the coalition of 315, but this time not to bridle Antigonus but to destroy him." --Ibid., p.502.
"In spring 301 . . . at Ipsus near Synnada the two great armies met in the 'battle of the kings' . . . Antigonus was defeated and killed . . . The struggle between the central power and the dynasts was ended, and with Antigonus' death the dismemberment of the Graeco Macedonian world became inevitable. Demetrius fled to Ephesus, while Lysimachus and Seleucus divided Antigonus' kingdom. Cassander was recognized as king of Macedonia." --Ibid., p. 504.
What is the meaning of the "little horn" in verse 9?
"In the latter time of their [successors of Alexander] kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up." Verse 23.
NOTE: The little horn comes forth from one of the horns of the goat. How, it may be asked, can that be true of Rome? Earthly governments are not introduced into prophecy until they become in some way connected with the people of God. Rome became connected with Jews, the people of God at that time, by the famous Jewish League in 161 B.C. But seven years before this, that is, in 168 B.C., Rome had conquered Macedonia, and made that country a part of its empire. Rome is therefore introduced into prophecy just as, from the overthrow of the Macedonian horn of the goat, it is going forth to new conquests in other directions. It appeared to the prophet as coming forth from one of the horns of the goat." --Uriah Smith, The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, p.158.
"From the opening of the historic period the development of Roman civilization was profoundly affected by foreign influences, in particular by Etruscan and Greek. But whereas the influence of the Etruscans virtually ceased with the expulsion of their kings from Rome, that of the Greeks continued with increasing strength throughout the whole of the period of the republic . . . It was inevitable that the older and more advanced Hellenic civilization should leave an indelible imprint upon the younger and less highly developed culture of Rome. And, in fact, there is hardly a single important aspect of Roman civilization that does not reveal unmistakable traces of imitating or borrowing ideas that originated among the Greeks. With obvious truth the Roman poet Horace could say: 'Captive Greece has captured her rude conqueror.'" --A. E. Boak, Albert Hyma, and Preston Slosson, The Growth of European Civilization, Vol. 1, p. 84. (Copyright, 1938, by F. S. Crofts & Co. Inc. Used by permission of Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc.)
"Contact with the Greeks led to the introduction of Greek divinities and, of much greater importance, to the identification of the native Italian gods with those of the Greek pantheon, With the result that Greek mythology and forms of artistic representation were taken over wholesale by the Romans." --Ibid., p. 93.
As three historical quotations reveal, the pagan Roman Empire may be described as coming out the Greek Empire. However, as the following question and answer show, the little horn represents more than simply pagan Rome.
What was this little horn to do to God's sanctuary?
"Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down." Daniel 8:11.
NOTE: As just explained, the little horn of Daniel 8 represents, first, the ancient Roman Empire. It was pagan Rome that in A.D. 70 laid the Temple in Jerusalem desolate and brought its services to an end, as forcefully described in the prophetic language of verses 9-13. However, as will be seen (see Chapter 50), the prophetic time period of verse 14 was to extend almost eighteen centuries beyond A.D. 70. This fact demands that the little horn be viewed not simply as pagan Rome but also as papal Rome, its successor. This relationship between pagan
Rome and papal Rome is clearly set forth in the prophecy of Daniel 7.
This fact also demands that the word sanctuary, as used in verses 11-14, not be understood to refer exclusively to the Jerusalem Temple. There being no such "sanctuary" on earth during the remainder of that long prophetic time period, the term sanctuary, in verse 14, must refer to the "sanctuary" in heaven, "the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man," of which the sanctuary on earth was only a "shadow." (Hebrews 8:2, 5.)
What was finally to happen to this persecuting power?
"The judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end." Daniel 7:26.
NOTE: In the prophecy of the seventh chapter there is traced the history of the rise and fall of the four great kingdoms, the division of the fourth, as represented by the ten horns, and the establishment of the Papacy under the symbol of the little horn, before whom three fell. As the prophet beheld the persecutions of this power, he saw the Ancient of days sit and the judgment begin. Following the judgment, the kingdom was to be given to the saints of the Most High.
The eighth chapter of Daniel reviews briefly the history of the kingdoms, predicts the persecutions of the chosen people by pagan and papal Rome, and gives a remarkable prophecy concerning the sanctuary.
At what time, according to this important prophecy, was the sanctuary to be cleansed?
"He said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." Daniel 8:14.
NOTE: The Jewish Day of Atonement was on the tenth day of the seventh month, at which time the sanctuary was cleansed. This Day of Atonement was looked upon by the Jews as a day of judgment, and was, in fact, a type of the investigative judgment in heaven. The 2300-day period, representing 2300 years according to symbolic prophecy, reaches to the cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven, or the investigative judgment. A study of the symbols and time period of this chapter, and of their interpretations in this and the ninth chapter, gives a clear understanding of this period.
How did this view of desolation and persecution by the little horn power affect the prophet?
"I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business." Daniel 8:27.