13: Daniel 8

The Vision of the Evenings and Mornings1

About two years after the vision recorded in chapter 7, but before Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians, Daniel received another vision in which he saw himself in Susa, east of the Tigris River.

A ram
Looking up he saw a long-horned ram standing beside the Ulai canal. One horn, longer than the other, grew up later. Unchecked by any other animal, the ram charged at will, westward, northward and southward, becoming great.

A goat wounds and subdues the ram
Deep in thought, Daniel suddenly sees a one-horned goat coming from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. He charged at the ram, striking it and shattering both of its horns. The ram, powerless, was knocked down, trampled and unrescued.

The goat’s achievements, weakness and metamorphosis
The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off. In its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.

Another horn
Out of one of them 2 came another horn, which started small but grew in power southward, eastward and toward the Beautiful Land.

What is its target?
This horn attacks the host of the heavens, the daily sacrifice, and the place of his sanctuary. In competition with the Prince of the host, it removed the daily sacrifice. In the process, truth was thrown to the ground.

The obvious question: “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled?”
The answer: It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.

The meaning
God, understanding Daniel’s bewilderment, instructs Gabriel to explain it to him. Firstly, Gabriel allocates the fulfillment to the future and uses four terms: “the time of the end (8:17),” “later in the time of wrath (8:19),” “the appointed time of the end (8:19)” and “the distant future (8:26).” 3

Secondly, Gabriel does provide meaning to the symbols, terms and concepts. We could leave it there, but some need to be explained and harmonized with history.

The setting is a power struggle in which God’s people would eventually be caught.4
It begins when Medo-Persia, symbolized by the ram, is attacked by Greece which is symbolized by the goat. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king.

Alexander the Great, although Macedonian, reunited the Greek states and extended the empire as far as Egypt and Central Asia — conquering Persia in his path.

“The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.”

After Alexander’s death (323 B.C.), six generals ruled a now-divided empire, but by 301 B.C. there were four. Cassander ruled Macedonia and Greece. Lysimachus ruled Thrace and north-western Asia Minor.5 Seleucus ruled southern Asia Minor, Syria and Mesopotamia. Ptolemy ruled Egypt and Judea. Consequently Judea, now under Greco-Egyptian control, was bounded on the north by the Seleucids. By 280 B.C. there were only three, Macedonia-Greece, and the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires.

Another king
In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.

So this is the meaning of the “little horn!” It represents a king, unnamed, but described along with his activities.

Who is this little horn?
In the year 175 B.C., in the Seleucid Empire, immediately north of Judea, Antiochus IV became king, and ruled until 164/163 B.C. Here are some brief facts about him.6

1. He attempted to force the Jews to give up their national religion and culture, and to adopt, in its place, the religion, culture, and language of the Greeks. This Hellenization program was the most significant event in Jewish history during the entire Intertestamental period.7
2. He very nearly exterminated the religion and culture of the Jews, by stripping the sanctuary of all its treasures, plundering Jerusalem, leaving the city and its walls in ruins, slaying thousands of Jews, and exiling others as slaves. A royal edict commanded them to abandon all rites of their own religion and to live as Greeks. They were forced to erect pagan altars in every Judean town, to offer swine’s flesh upon them, and to surrender every copy of their Scriptures to be torn up and burned. Antiochus himself offered swine before a statue of Zeus in the Temple. His contempt for God and the suspension of the Jewish sacrifices endangered both the Jews’ national identity and the future of Judaism.
3. The crisis was comparable to those precipitated by Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, and (later) Titus.

In three places, Daniel 8:12, 13 and 23, Hebrew words that are translated “rebellion” and “rebels,” (KJV: “transgression” and “transgressors”) are employed. First Maccabees 1:11-15 informs us that, prior to this reign of terror there was an influential pro-Greek Jewish element which gained royal authority to build a gymnasium in Jerusalem. In those days gymnasts performed naked (Greek: gymnos), a source of visual pleasure to spectators. As a result, there were Jewish men who, now sensitive to their Jewishness, underwent painful surgery to conceal their circumcision.

“In the latter part of their [the successors to Alexander the Great] reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise.”

Upon returning from Egypt in 167 B.C. Antiochus entered Jerusalem. There he was warmly welcomed by the pro-Greek leaders. He was given permission to take many of the Temple treasures. To show his appreciation he executed many of the conservatives and some who wished to return to Ptolemaic sovereignty.8 Josephus tells us that crucifixion was introduced into Palestine by him.9

With the support of the Jews who had leanings towards Hellenizing Judea, Antiochus then embarked on his program to turn Judea into a Greek settlement with Greek religion, culture and customs as described above. This period has been called by some “The Great Persecution.”10

In the historical books known as 1 and 2 Maccabees we learn that Mattathias, an elderly priest in Modein, was outraged when an envoy of the king arrived to impose idolatry in his town. He murdered both the envoy and a compliant Jew. With his five sons he fled and organized a revolt. Judas, one of his sons, later assumed the nickname Maccabeus, “the hammer,” (Heb. maqqebah), a name that eventually became that of the whole family and assigned to the books that recorded the crisis.

“He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.”

Antiochus IV did not die at the hands of human beings. “The all-seeing Lord … struck him an incurable and unseen blow. … And so it came about that he fell out of his chariot as it was rushing along, and the fall was so hard as to torture every limb of his body. … And so [he] ended his life among the remote and inhospitable mountains (2 Maccabees 9).” That was in 164 B.C.

The prophecy was so true and well summarizes Antiochus’s Hellenization program. Remember that this is written not from our 21st Century point of view of the sweep of history but from that of the covenant people, the people who eventually suffered under his reign. His complete disregard for Yahweh and His house (the Temple in Jerusalem), and his adoption of the name “Epiphanes” (Greek: “renowned, illustrious, notable”)11 confirm the prophetic character study. The cooperation of so many Jews agrees with the reference to rebels who have become completely wicked (NIV).

The period is said to last 2,300 “evenings-mornings” (8:14. KJV: “days”) or, as 8:26 reads, “evenings and mornings (most English translations. Emphasis mine).” Here these words are in the same order as they are in the Biblical record of the first six days of Creation week in Genesis 1 (“And there was evening and there was morning — the nth day”).12 The interminable plight of the persecuted Jews during The Great Persecution is reflected in the number (2,300) and also in the two words “dusk” and “morning.” Strangely and, maybe, significantly, together they imply continuing despair and disappointment in contrast with the sayings, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5)” and, “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice (Psalm 55:17).”

At the end of the 2,300 “evenings-mornings” the sanctuary would be “cleansed,” “justified,” “reconsecrated,” “restored (to its rightful state).” 13

Fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:13, “I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and make you like a warrior’s sword,” the Maccabees eventually drove the Seleucid forces from Judea. Free again, they restored the Temple and its services and set up a new altar (1 Maccabees 4:36–54), an event Jews still commemorate annually as Hanukkah.14

HANUKIAH

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Sanctuary Review Committee, which met August 10-15, 1980 at the Glacier View Ranch, Colorado, reported in MINISTRY, October, 1980 (page 18):
“In Daniel 8:14 it is evident that the [Hebrew] word [nisdaq] denotes the reversal of the evil caused by the power symbolized by the ‘little horn’ and hence probably should be translated ‘restored.’ ”

The Hebrew word itself in this context hints at nothing but a rectification of the evil caused by the little horn. From 170 B.C., when a new law was published requiring all citizens to present themselves quarterly to “pay formal homage to Antiochus Epiphanes as the senior god of the Seleucids” until the restoration of Temple services was about 2,300 days or a little more than 6 years. At the end, there were two events that had been prophesied. First, due to the actions of the Maccabeans, the sanctuary services resumed in a reconsecrated Temple. Second, Antiochus died by what was understood as divine retribution (2 Maccabees 9:5-28; Daniel 8:25; cf. Acts 12:23).15 Thus ended that threat and also the 2,300 evenings-mornings. Ironically, the time period itself, while of initial concern to Daniel, does not figure as important in the explanation (Daniel 8:19-25).

True to the prophecy, the devastation caused by this one king was “astounding.” He was not the world’s most powerful king. Rome dramatically curtailed his ambitions when, in 168 B.C., the Roman envoy to Egypt, Gaius Popilius Laenas, drew a circle around him in the dirt and told him not to exit it until he had agreed to the demands of the Senate. Yet, it was a reign of terror for the covenant people.

Attempting to downplay the seriousness of this reign of terror by comparing Antiochus’ actions in Judea with those of Rome in Judea is as careless as trivializing the Armenian genocide of 191516 by comparing it with the Nazi Holocaust of the 1940s.

Days stretch into years, and years into centuries. To us who are only human it often appears that this present age will never end. Most of us can do little to prevent a recurrence of persecution of this nature.

Implicit in both the prophecy and the subsequent history which was its fulfillment is the appeal for believers in all circumstances to always
1. remain faithful to the Word of God as their only rule of faith and practice and to
2. remain faithful to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. He is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

Endnotes

  1. Sources: 1 and 2 Maccabees, Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Judaica, The Jewish Encyclopedia, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The Jerusalem Bible, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, Wikipedia. Although 1 and 2 Maccabees are included in The Apocrypha (a.k.a the Deuterocanonical Books) and form no part of the Biblical canon that originated in the Hebrew language and in Palestine, they do provide historical information about certain events that affected the Jewish people in the intertestamental period.
  2. i.e., from one of the four winds, one of the directions toward which the four horns had grown.
  3. Daniel, in his lengthy prayer recorded in chapter 9, sees his times as the period of God’s wrath against His people. Gabriel is therefore meaning that the events he is forecasting will occur later in that period.
  4. Nichol, Francis D., ed., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978), Vol. 5, p. 25.
  5. Asia Minor, means Lesser Asia, and was the name for the peninsula bounded by the Black Sea, the Bosporus and the Mediterranean Sea.
  6. Nichol, op. cit. Vol 4. pp. 868-869.
    For a 21st Century article by a Jewish Christian on the attempts made by Antiochus IV to Hellenize Judea see “A Great Miracle Occurred Here” by Clifford Goldstein in Liberty of January 2015
  7. That is the period of time between the last entry in the Old Testament and the beginning of the events recorded in the New Testament.
  8. Nichol, op. cit. Vol 5, pp 28ff.
  9. Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1979), art. “Cross.”
  10. See the Chronological Table in The Jerusalem Bible, (London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 1968), pages 348-349
  11. See Acts 2:20’s quotation from Joel 2:31 in the LXX: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable [Gk: epiphanes] day of the Lord come (KJV).”
  12. Although the term in Daniel 8:14 is “evening-morning,” some argue that the calibrations are based on the morning and evening sacrifice, the “regular burnt offering.” Further, they argue, because there was one sacrifice in the morning and a second in the evening, i.e., two each day, the 2,300 should be halved, resulting in 1,150 actual days. However, although there was one sacrifice in the morning and one in the evening, together they constituted a “unit” of a continual daily burnt offering (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:3-8). It is for that reason that this author believes that the term, and unit of calibration for this time period, does in fact mean a day, of which, in this prophecy, there are 2,300.
  13. Each one of these translations is from that one Hebrew word “nisdaq.”
  14. See John 10:22. (The photo of a hanukiah, a nine-branched candelabra used in the annual celebration of Hanukkah. The Hebrew word “menorah” is also used for this candelabra but is better applied to the 7-branched candelabra installed in the Tabernacle and the Temple. In this way the two are distinguished from one another.)
  15. The symbolism of Daniel 8:10 is alluded to in Maccabees 9:10 in the record of Antiochus’ sickness and demise. Here he is referred to as “the man who only a short time before had seemed to touch the stars in the sky (NEB).”
  16. For an autobiographical account of this incident see Serpouhi Tavoukdjian, Exiled: Story of an Armenian Girl (Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1933)

Photo: A hanukiah (a nine-branched candelabra used in the annual celebration of Hanukkah) © 2013, Angus McPhee

© 2010, Angus McPhee