Daniel 8:1-2 Overview – This chapter is the account of a vision seen by Daniel in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar. This was the King of Daniel 5 who saw the handwriting on the wall which foretold his impending judgment. This vision appears to have occurred to him when he was awake as opposed to the earlier vision in Daniel 7 which occurred when he was asleep.
This is likely the same kind of vision that came upon Balaam in Numbers 24:4. The prophet either was, or appeared to be, in the city of Susa, in the province of Elam; or in Shushan, by the river Ulai. In this vision he sees a ram with two horns, one higher than the other. The ram moves westward, and northward, and southward, and is so powerful that nothing could oppose him.
As he was looking on this, he saw a male goat come from the west, moving so quickly that it hardly touches the ground, with a single notable horn between his eyes. This goat attacked the ram, broke his two horns, and overcame him entirely. The goat became very strong, but in time the horn was broken, and four other horns came up in its place.
From one of these there sprang up a little horn that became great and mighty, extending itself toward the south, and the east, and the pleasant land—the land of Israel. This horn became so mighty that it seemed to attack “the host of heaven”; it cast some of them down to the ground; and magnified itself against the Prince of the host; it caused the daily sacrifice in the temple to cease, and the sanctuary of the Prince of the host was cast down.
A request is made to know how long this was to continue, and the answer was 2,300 days, and that then the sanctuary would be cleansed. The angel Gabriel is then sent to explain the vision to the prophet, and he announces that the ram with the two horns represented the kings of Media and Persia; the goat, the king of Greece; the great horn between his eyes, the first king; the four horns that sprang up after that was broken, the four dynasties into which the kingdom would be divided; and the little horn, was a terrible future king who would stand up against the Prince of princes, and would ultimately be destroyed.
Daniel was overcome by this vision for a time; and was revived. This is one of the few prophecies in the Scriptures that are explained to the prophet, and so it becomes a key to explain other prophecies. The prophecy clearly describes the kingdom of Medio-Persia, the kingdom of Greece under Alexander the Great and the four succeeding kingdoms after his death. There is little doubt of the prophecy pointing to Antiochus Epiphanies, of Chanukah who also foreshadows the Antichrist.
These events described here are so clear, that Porphyry, who lived in the 3rd century A.D. and wrote 15 volumes against the Christians of his day, taught that that this chapter, as well as other portions of Daniel, was written after the events occurred. In this we must acknowledge either Porphyry is correct or Daniel was given these visions by God.
No man by mere natural means could have predicted these events with so much accuracy and detail. This portion of Daniel was written in pure Hebrew. To recap, Daniel 2:4 through chapter 7 were written in Chaldee likely because the events in those chapters deals with the nations while the events in these closing chapters focus on the nations in their relation to Israel.
Daniel 8:3-4 Daniel saw in his vision a ram which had two horns on the bank of the river. This clearly speaks of two kings of Media and Persia because we are clearly told this in Daniel 8:20. The united power of these two kingdoms is indicated by the two horns of the one ram. Horns as we have previously learned indicate power (1 Samuel 2:10). That Daniel notes the length of the horns is an indication of great power.
The higher horn springing up last speaks of Persia which became the more mighty power of the two, so that the name Media becomes more obscure as time goes on. The ram pushing westward, northward, and southward speaks of the conquests of the united kingdom. Centuries before Cyrus appeared on the scene, Isaiah called him by name and even called him God’s “shepherd” (Isaiah 44:28-45:4).
It was Cyrus the Persian King whom God chose to defeat the Babylonians and permit the Jews to return to their land. Cyrus and his armies did push westward and northward and southward and defeat their enemies, taking Libya, Egypt, all of Asia Minor and moving as far as India, creating the largest empire ever in the ancient east until the time of Alexander the Great. Once his conquests were consolidated, he attacked Babylon and took it in 539 B.C.
Cyrus was kind to those he took captive and permitted the Jews to return to their land to rebuild the temple and restore the nation (2 Chronicles 36:22-23;Ezra 1:1-3; 6:2-5). He also allowed them to take with them the sacred vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple (Ezra 1:5-11).
Cyrus was called to fulfill God’s Word to allow Israel to return to their land. Isaiah called Cyrus the Lord’s anointed (Isaiah 45:1). He anointed him as Isaiah 45:4 tells us for the sake of Israel my chosen”. No matter how the nations may treat Israel, God uses the nations to accomplish His ordained purposes. His plans for Israel will be fulfilled no matter how much the Gentile nations may oppose His chosen people.
Daniel 8:5-7 While Daniel was thinking about what he had just seen concerning the vision of the Ram a goat appears from the west. In Daniel 8:21 he is described as a shaggy goat this shaggy goat was the King of Greece. Alexander the Great was the one who consolidated Greece into a great power and he went forth to conquer the Persian empire. Historians write about Caranus, the first king of the Macedonians, who was led by goats to the city of Edessa where he established the seat of his kingdom.
The goat became an emblem of Macedon. Josephus (Ant. b. xi. ch. viii.) wrote that when Alexander was at Jerusalem, the prophecies of Daniel were shown to him by the high priest, with the result that he granted special favor to the Jews. Daniel describes this goat as crossing the whole earth which represents Alexander well, and who is said to have wept because there were no other worlds to conquer. The vision of the goat not touching the earth speaks of the speed of his movements and conquests.
The conquests of Alexander accomplished God’s purposes in the world and helped to prepare the world for the coming of Messiah and the spread of the Gospel. He exported Greek culture and language which united diverse peoples together; eventually Greek became the universal language which advanced the knowledge of God’s Word to the nations. He literally “wedded East to West” when 9,000 of his soldiers and officers married Eastern women in one mass wedding.
What Alexander began, the Romans completed. Roman roads and bridges enabled people to travel and share their ideas; Roman law kept nations under control; Roman legions enforced that law; and the Roman peace (Pax Romana) gave people the opportunity to experience more security than they had known before.