Please carefully consider the following points, but only after you have studied the four chapters which discuss Daniel 7-12.
Daniel 8: the scenario, the units of time and the event at the end of the time
• The scenario begins with an international power struggle between two kingdoms.
• A successor to the victor of this struggle focuses his attention on God’s people, their land, their sanctuary and their religion.
• The result for God’s people is the “surrender” of the sanctuary (verse 13), devastation and destruction (verse 24).
• Rectification is said to occur at the end of a period of time that is calibrated in units called “days” in the King James’ Version (KJV).
• In the Hebrew text, the time is calibrated in units called “ereb-boqer.” This Hebrew word combination “ereb-boqer,” which is translated “days” in the KJV of Daniel 8:14, should preferably be translated “evenings-mornings.” The margin of the KJV reads “evening-morning.”
• Any doubt about the meaning of the term “evenings-mornings” (in verse 14) is dispelled with a further reference to them as “evenings and mornings” in verse 26. See especially the NKJV which reads here, “And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true . . . ”
• While the first expression “evenings-mornings” in verse 14 occurs only once, here,1 the second “evenings and mornings” in verse 26, does not. The precedent for this second expression is in Genesis 1, in six of the seven time periods of the creation week.
• The event at the end of the time period is the “nisdaq” of the sanctuary. This Hebrew word “nisdaq” which is translated “cleansed” in the KJV text of Daniel 8:14 and “justified” in the margin2 of the KJV, is translated “reconsecrated” (NIV), “properly restored” (NASB), and “restored to its rightful state” (NRSV) to present a few. This word also occurs only once in Scripture, and it is here.1
• At the meeting of the Sanctuary Review Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church which met at the Glacier View Ranch in Colorado, U.S.A., from August 10 to 15, 1980, it was agreed that “in Daniel 8:14 it is evident that the word denotes the reversal of the evil caused by the power symbolized by the ‘little horn’.” The validity of translations similar to these three, the NIV, the NASB and the NRSV, is obviously recognized and encouraged.
• The Seventh-day Adventist term “cleansing of the sanctuary,” based on the clause “then shall the sanctuary be cleansed (KJV)”, and its reference to an investigative judgment, are the result of ignorance of this Hebrew word (nisdaq) and its meaning, and a preoccupation with the verse more than the context.
In Daniel 8, who is represented by the little horn?
In the visions of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, Greece is followed by Rome.
So, is it correct to assume that, because the goat of Daniel 8 represents Greece (Daniel 8:21), and the large horn between its eyes represents Alexander the Great, and the four horns that replaced it when it was broken represent four Greek generals who divided Alexander’s kingdom between them after his death, therefore the unusual horn of verses 9-14 represents Rome?
The following statement in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary on Daniel 11:14 (Vol. 4, p. 868) means that one cannot overlook or ignore Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, and his actions.
Daniel 11:14: The threat posed by Antiochus Epiphanes confronted the Jews with a crisis comparable to the crises precipitated by Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, and Titus. During his brief reign of 12 years Antiochus very nearly exterminated the religion and culture of the Jews. He stripped the sanctuary of all its treasures, plundered Jerusalem, left the city and its walls in ruins, slew thousands of Jews, and carried others into exile as slaves. A royal edict commanded them to abandon all rites of their own religion and to live as heathen. 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 offered swine before a pagan idol set up in the Jewish Temple. His suspension of the Jewish sacrifices (either 168–165 or 167–164 B.C., by two methods of reckoning the Seleucid Era; see Vol. V. p. 25n) endangered the survival of the Jewish religion and the identity of the Jews as a people.
“Is Rome the ‘little horn’ which will be destroyed, but not by human power?”
While some will be satisfied with the chart above, the question might persist in the minds of those who have not understood “Rome.” So the answer will be influenced by what we mean by “Rome.”
If the reader is thinking of the imperial Roman Empire, he must take into account the causes for its demise. Were they human or divine? Gabriel clearly says that this power’s downfall will be without “human power.” In the case of imperial Rome it was the incursions of multiple forces and its own weakness in dealing with them that brought about its end. So, given the facts, Gabriel could not be meaning imperial Rome.
On the other hand some, influenced by Adolf Harnack,5 might see the Papacy as the continuation of the Roman Empire. In this view the Roman Empire has only experienced a metamorphosis; imperial Rome has become papal Rome. So Rome is still with us and has yet to be destroyed. If Rome is intended by the horn (verse 9) its demise is still in the future.
If Rome, formerly Imperial and currently Papal, is the antitype of the little horn, Gabriel’s answer and explanation in verses 19-25 is incomplete, unsatisfactory and irrelevant to the restoration of the sanctuary. Naturally, one would expect both the long answer and explanation in verses 19-25 to include a reference to the short answer (verse 14) to the question posed in verse 13. Besides, one would expect the “cleansing” (to use the KJV) of the sanctuary and the Divine termination of the little horn to be related. One restored; the other terminated. Is that the case with Rome?
Here then is Gabriel’s long answer and explanation with Rome inserted.
Daniel 8:19-25 — He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end.  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.  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.  “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, Rome will arise.  Rome will become very strong, but not by his own power. Rome will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. Rome will destroy the mighty men and the holy people.  Rome will cause deceit to prosper, and Rome will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, Rome will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet Rome will be destroyed, but not by human power.
However, if Antiochus Epiphanes is the one, his demise has occurred and did around the same time as the restoration of Temple Services presided over by Judas Maccabæus on December 14, 164 B.C. The evil done by the little horn was reversed and the little horn destroyed but not by human power.
So, while there may be some similarities between Antiochus IV and Rome, Imperial and/or Papal, the weight of evidence leans in the direction of identifying Antiochus Epiphanes as the little horn of verse 9.
Importantly, Gabriel’s interpretation should not be overlooked, for his interpretation is not only the primary but the the “official” interpretation.
“Great, very great, exceeding great.” Does it mean “great, greater, greatest?”
Daniel 8:4-9 (KJV) — [the ram] did according to his will, and became great6. . . .  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.  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.
It has been argued that these three expressions, in the King James Version, which apply to the growth in power by the ram, the he-goat and the little horn are intended to compare each succeeding power with its predecessor, as in good, better, best or great, greater, greatest. If that is true, of course Antiochus Epiphanes cannot possibly be the power symbolized by the little horn. Again, if that is true, in line then with the prophecies recorded in Daniel 2 and 7, Rome, both Imperial and Papal, becomes a compelling candidate.
There are differences, though, in later translations, the NIV, the NASB and the NRSV for example, which read as follows:
Daniel 8:4-9 (NIV) — [the ram] did as he pleased and became great. . . .  The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.  Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land.
Daniel 8:4-9 (NASB) — [the ram] magnified himself. . . .  Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.  And out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly [Heb. yeter] great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land.
Daniel 8:4-9 (NRSV) [the ram] became strong. . . .  Then the male goat grew exceedingly great; but at the height of its power, the great horn was broken, and in its place there came up four prominent horns toward the four winds of heaven.  Out of one of them came another horn, a little one, which grew exceedingly [Heb. yeter] great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the beautiful land.
In discussing the alternatives for translating these words Hebraist André Reis says this in his paper “A Response to Clifford Goldstein on the ‘Little Horn’ of Daniel 8” (published on www.atoday.org © André Reis, 2018):
So, considering the range of meaning of yeter, [“remainder, excess, pre-eminence, superiority, cord, or string.”] “exceedingly” is not a common use or a necessary first choice translation. Along with the lack of the important Hebrew intensifier meöd, [the choice Hebrew adverb of intensity] this opens up other possibilities. The translation “grew exceedingly great” then must be surrendered and changed to either “the little horn grew in pre-eminence,” or, if we use the usual meaning of yeter as “remainder”, it could be rendered: “the little horn grew the remainder [of its size]”, that is, [it] reached maturity.
Consequently it is presumptuous to assert that the terms in question mean an increasing superiority, thus disqualifying Antiochus Epiphanes in favor of Rome. Gabriel’s interpretation suggests nothing of the sort. The descriptors are of each power and in their own particular sphere of activity. As always a focus on the primary interpretation is essential as is also any aid to an understanding of the original language.
Notice that the vision ends with the words, “It will take 2,300 evenings-mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated (or, restored).” Then Gabriel gives an explanation recorded in vss. 19-25 which concludes with the comment, “Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.”
And so the end of this king’s reign removed the threat to the sanctuary and its services. That being so it is reasonable to calculate the beginning of the 2,300 days from their end. Antiochus’ death occurred 164/163 B.C. Thus 2,300 evenings-mornings prior to that would bring us to the year 170 B.C. the time of Antiochus’ first Egyptian Campaign after which he pillaged Jerusalem.
See the Chronological Table in The Jerusalem Bible, (London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 1968), pages 348-349.
- Was Daniel puzzled, as is suggested by some, by the time period in Daniel 8:14? Was he looking forward to a return visitation in which he would be given an explanation?
- Rather than expressing a concern about any inability to understand the period of time expressed in the term “2,300 evenings-mornings” Daniel’s prayer of chapter 9 is about the spiritual condition of his people and their fortunes and misfortunes.
- Because the sanctuary was in ruins during Daniel’s exile in Babylon, how could God be talking about its being desecrated? Besides, if it was to be rebuilt, and in a climate of prosperity and hope and not calamity as Jeremiah had said (29:10-11), who could envisage a subsequent desecration?
- The vision of chapter 9 (vss. 20-27) was given as an assurance to Daniel that his nation would indeed be restored, their capital city rebuilt, and atonement would be provided by the Messiah-to-come (rather than by ritual). Besides, Gabriel also revealed that the city and sanctuary would suffer a later greater disaster different from that foretold in chapter 8.
- So the calamity which had been forecast in the vision of Daniel 8 would occur at some time during the time period of seventy “sevens” and prior to their ending.
- Thus the puzzle, not of the duration (which was not a puzzle at all) but of the era in which the profanation, persecution and restoration would occur, was solved.
The year-day principle
- The calibrations of the time period in Daniel 8:14 are said to be “evenings-mornings.” This is confirmed in verse 26.
- The “weeks” of Daniel 9 are not weeks of days but 70 “sevens.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Revised edition 1976, 1977) explains: “Here, evidently, weeks of years are intended rather than weeks of days … . Seventy weeks of years would be 490 literal years, without (here) applying the day-year principle.”
- This period of time was decreed as the balance of the life span of the covenant people as a national entity and would begin from the “issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.”
- The 2300 “evenings-mornings” is a time period that must then occur within rather than beyond the 70 “sevens.” Towards the end of the 70 sevens “sacrifice and offering will cease” and there is no hint of their revival after that.
To insist that these “evenings-mornings” mean anything other than what they are said to be by Gabriel, the original inspired interpreter, viz., “evenings and mornings” as in verse 26 is neither fair nor warranted.
The Day of Atonement7
- Neither Daniel 8 nor 9 make any reference to the annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and its associated ritual.
- The use of the words “sanctuary” and “cleansed” in Daniel 8 are insufficient reason to claim a connection with Yom Kippur and its ritual, neither are the presence of a ram and a he-goat! In this vision these animals represent not sacrificial animals but two warring kingdoms.
- Neither Daniel 8 nor 9 make any reference to an investigation of the records of the covenant people.
- Daniel 7 is about God sitting in judgment on the enemies of His people and punishing them and assigning the kingdom to His people.
- Neither Daniel 8 nor 9 support the position that a future judgment of God’s people would rectify the problems created by the “twisted” little horn, i.e. [the] horn … [that] started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land (Daniel 8:9).
- Neither Daniel 8 nor 9 support the position that the antitypical Day of Atonement would rectify the problems created by the “twisted” little horn.
That the threat that was forecast would last for a little more than six years, is now a matter of history, and serves as a warning to any who would attempt a similar course of action.
The Day of Atonement. A day of judgment?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has cited Jewish sources in an endeavor to support the position that the O. T. Day of Atonement was a day of (investigative) judgment.
- The supporting quotation from The Jewish Encyclopedia which appears on page 433 in Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (QOD) is in fact incomplete. Further, the Jewish Encyclopedia explains that this quotation represents Rabbinic thought and is described as a “weird” scene. (What follows is the statement in question and the portions omitted from QOD are included in red.)
“God seated on His throne to judge the world, at the same time Judge, Pleader, Expert, and Witness, openeth the Book of Records; it is read, every man’s signature being found therein. The great trumpet is sounded.; a still small voice is heard; the angels shudder, saying, this is the day of judgment; for His very ministers are not pure before God. As a shepherd mustereth his flock, causing them to pass under his rod, so doth God cause every living soul to pass before Him to fix the limit of every creature’s life and to foreordain its destiny. On New Year’s Day the decree is written; on the Day of Atonement it is sealed who shall live and who are to die, etc. But penitence, prayer and charity may avert the evil decree.” 8
- Besides, The Jewish Encyclopedia’s articles Atonement and Atonement, Day of on pages 281 and 286 acknowledge the influence of Babylonian mythology, acquired during the exile, on Jewish understanding, interpretation and explanation of the Day of Atonement.
Notwithstanding, in The Jewish Encyclopedia (page 286), a Jewish view, different from the above, is expressed as follows:
- The Jewish Encyclopedia: “On the Day of Atonement … religion’s greatest gift, God’s condoning mercy was … offered to man. … [It was] the annual day of divine forgiveness of sin, when Satan, the accuser, failed to find blame in the people of Israel, who on that day appeared pure from sin like the angels. … The Day of Atonement is the ‘one day’ prepared from the beginning to unite the world divided between the light of goodness and the darkness of sin, a day of great joy to God. Not depressed and in somber garments as the suppliant appears before the earthly judge and ruler should Israel on New Year’s Day and on the Day of Atonement stand before the Ruler and the Judge on high, but with joy and in white garments betokening a cheerful and confiding spirit (page 286).”
The Scriptures themselves yield the following relevant information which is akin to this position.
In Deuteronomy 16:6, 11, 16 we read of what are known as the “pilgrim festivals”, those annual events for which Israelites were required to go on a pilgrimage to the center of worship, unnamed in these verses but now known to be Jerusalem. The occasions? The Passover, The Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths. (See also Exodus 23:14-17 and 34:18-23). The Day of Atonement is not listed.
This means that its ritual was performed on behalf of all Israelites on one day, for all their sins (Leviticus 16:16, 21, 22, 30, 34) while they were still at home. Even so, although they might not be in Jerusalem for the occasion, all Israelites were directed to participate in its spirit. The KJV of Leviticus 16:29, 31 translates this injunction as “ye shall afflict your souls.” (The Merriam-Webster online dictionary reveals that the original, but now obsolete, meaning of “afflict” is “to humble”. As a matter of fact The Geneva Bible of 1599 reads “humble your souls”.) In either the text or footnotes of modern translations the term “humble yourselves” or something similar is employed. Psalm 35: 13 speaks of humbling oneself with fasting, and this theme is raised again in Isaiah 58 which takes the reader beyond ritual to reformation. These three points, the absence of the individuals from the ceremony, the fact that it was performed for all and for all there sins, and the need to participate in spirit, all symbolize the truth of the Gospel, the graciousness of God, and the response we owe Him, and not showing contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience. See Romans 2:4.
So, rather than being a day of investigative judgment, God’s poring over of the records of sins of the children of Israel (God’s covenant people), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was a day of reconciliation with God. Too, rather than being a day of introspection and worry, it was a day of Sabbath rest (Leviticus 16:31.) And all this contra later Babylonian influence.
Christ’s intercession began in the 1st Century A.D.
In her book The Great Controversy, page 482, Ellen White, in the following words, envisages Jesus’ intercession as a post-1844 event.
Jesus will appear as their advocate, to plead in their behalf before God. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1. “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 9:24; 7:25.
It should be noted, though, that these Scriptures that Ellen White has quoted were written in the present tense and therefore indicate that such intercession was available when they were written, in the first century A.D., and thus prior to 1844.
In conclusion and to recapitulate
The Book of Daniel is about God’s intervention on behalf of His people in Daniel’s day and in the days beyond. Chapter 8 speaks of one incident. Chapter 9 explains the time frame in which this would happen. Chapter 7 shows that no enemy of His people would go unjudged and unpunished.
In other words, the O.T. Day of Atonement, rather than being a day of (investigative) judgment, was intended to be a type of that occasion when God through Jesus Christ would unite human beings with Him, a true at-one-ment.
The book of the prophet Daniel was written to reassure God’s people. Later came His Son, Jesus Christ, the greatest of all the prophets, to seal that assurance with His death on the cross.
1 These two Hebrew terms, “ereb-boqer” (trans. “days,” “evenings-mornings”) and “nisdaq” (trans. “cleansed,” “justified,” et al.) occur nowhere else in Scripture. Note that, while the word “nisdaq” is derived from another word, “sadaq”, which does occur elsewhere, “nisdaq” itself only occurs here. The same applies to the word “chatak” (trans. “decreed”) in Daniel 9:24. Regarding the meaning of these words, the importance of the context in which they occur cannot be overestimated.
2 “Cleansed” or “justified”?
Before reading any further, please read the quotation from the Epistle Dedicatory to the KJV in my Chapter 4, “About Translations.”
● In the KJV’s marginal reading for Daniel 8:14 the word “justified” is offered as an alternative to “cleansed”. Because the theological definition of the word “justify” is “to declare innocent or guiltless, to absolve, to acquit” students of the doctrine of “Justification by Faith,” might well ask, “Why would the translators of the KJV offer the word ‘justify’ as an alternative to ‘cleanse’? Why would the sanctuary, a building, have to be declared innocent, absolved or acquitted?”
● However, the theological definition is not the only definition of the word “justify.”
● The context is not one of theology but of an historical event. It is not one of a sinner’s (a person’s) being accepted by God on the merits of the Sinless One. Rather, the context is one of the desecration of the sanctuary (a thing) by a foreign ruler, a successor to Alexander the Great, the conqueror of the Medes and Persians.
● The answer lies in the origin of the word in Latin: “justus” (Eng. “right” in the legal sense) and “facere” (pron. `fack-er-`ay) (Eng. “to make” or “to do”).
● Simply put, the legitimacy of the sanctuary as the center of Jewish worship had been jeopardized by its desecration. At the end of 2,300 days something would be done to rectify this.
3 After the Romans had defeated the Macedonians at Pydna, Greece, they gained more influence in the Eastern Mediterranean region. In a suburb of Alexandria, the Roman ambassador to Egypt, “Gaius Popilius Laenas, presented Antiochus with the ultimatum that he evacuate Egypt . . . [which he had just invaded] immediately. Antiochus, taken by surprise, asked for time to consider. Popillius, however, drew a circle in the earth around the king with his walking stick and demanded an unequivocal answer before Antiochus left the circle. Dismayed by this public humiliation, the king quickly agreed to comply.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1974 edn., Volume 1, pp. 994-995.
4 2 Maccabees 9
5 Whatever Roman elements the barbarians and Arians left … were … put under the protection of the Bishop of Rome, who was the chief person there after the Emperor’s disappearance. … The Roman Church in this way privily pushed itself into the place of the Roman World-Empire, of which it is the actual continuation; the empire has not perished, but has only undergone a transformation. … That is no mere ‘clever remark,’ but the recognition of the true state of the matter historically, and the most appropriate and fruitful way of describing the character of this Church. It still governs the nations. … It is a political creation, and as imposing as a World Empire, because [it is] the continuation of the Roman Empire. The Pope, who calls himself ‘King’ and ‘Pontifex Maximus,’ is Caesar’s successor.
Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity? (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1903) 269-270 (Italics in the original) (Quoted in SDABC on Daniel 8:23)
6 Daniel 8:8 — “The goat became very great” suggests Alexander’s thrust beyond the borders of the empire he had conquered even into Afghanistan and the Indus Valley (327 B.C.). Or else higdil (“became great”) may refer to the growth in arrogance that led him to assume the pretensions to divinity that distressed his Macedonian troops, who finally mutinied. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.
7 Yom Kippur is the Hebrew name for this day, as is also Yom Kippurim. The word “kippur” means “atonement”, but its origin is in the Heb. word “kaphar” = to cover. See entries 3722 (kaphar) and 3725 (kippurim) in Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the O.T.
8 Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957), 433
Photo: The Risen Christ, in the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Gore, Southland, New Zealand (© 2010, Angus McPhee)
© 2010, Revised 2020, Angus McPhee