Daniel Chapter 8  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Daniel 8
Dan 8:1

“vision.” This vision occurred in the third year of Belshazzar’s reign, so it was after Daniel 4 but before Daniel 5, the end of Belshazzar’s reign. It is in fact possible that this kind of prophecy about the end of the Babylonian empire was a reason that Daniel was no longer a top-seated administrator in Babylon and may have even contributed to Belshazzar’s anger against Yahweh and why he would want to have a drinking party using vessels from Yahweh’s temple (Dan. 5:2).

Dan 8:2

“palace-fortress.” See commentary on Esther 1:2.

“I was by the Ulai Canal.” Although some commentators think that Daniel really was by the Ulai Canal and away from Babylon on some kind of mission, the more natural reading of the text is that it was part of his vision that he was by the Ulai. The reason that God took Daniel to Susa and the Ulai Canal in the vision is not stated, but we know that Persia conquered Babylon and Susa was eventually one of the capital cities of Persia (Esther 1:2). So it seems likely that Daniel was made to understand that even as the vision God gave him portrayed the fall of Babylon to Persia, so Daniel was taken to Persia to emphasize that point.

Dan 8:3

“a ram.” This is a picture of the Medo-Persian Empire. “A ram was a fitting symbol of the empire, for according to Ammianus Marcellius (10.1; fourth century AD), the Persian ruler carried the gold head of a ram when he marched before his army” (Stephen Miller; New American Commentary).

“high.” Many versions read “long,” but the text reads “high” and thus makes a cultural reference to being exalted and honored. The horn that was “higher” than the other was more exalted and honored (and powerful) than the other.

Dan 8:4(top)
Dan 8:5

“conspicuous horn.” The Hebrew text is “a horn of vision,” that is, a horn that could easily be seen. This is Alexander the Great, the first great ruler of the Greek Empire.

Dan 8:6(top)
Dan 8:7(top)
Dan 8:8

“four conspicuous horns.” For who these four horns are, see commentary on Daniel 8:22.

Dan 8:9

“Out of one of them came a little horn.” The little horn that came from one of the Greek Empires was Antiochus Epiphanes, who was the eighth ruler of the Seleucid kingdom. He is the most profound type of the Antichrist in Scripture, so much so that we learn about what the Antichrist will be like by studying Antiochus. The parallel between the Antichrist and Antiochus Epiphanes even shows up in the name Antiochus gave himself, “Epiphanes,” which means “god manifest” or “god visible,” in other words “the visible manifestation of god” or even “the visible god.” When the Antichrist shows up, he will go into the Temple and portray himself as a god (2 Thess. 2:4). The “little horn” here in Daniel 8:9 is Antiochus, and the “little horn” in Daniel 7:8 clearly refers to the Antichrist.

The little horn here in Daniel 8:9 is Antiochus Epiphanes, who is a type of the Antichrist, gives us another important piece of information about the Antichrist that historians and biblical commentators have mostly been wrong about. It has been assumed for generations that the Antichrist would come from the ancient Roman empire, but there are serious problems with that, one of them being that the little horn here in Daniel 8:9 is an Easterner, and does not come from Rome. Although a type of the Antichrist does not have to match the Antichrist in every way, just as a type of Christ does not have to match Christ in every way, this particular mismatch has been a problem for scholars (cp. Stephen Miller, The New American Commentary: Daniel. P. 225, fn. #22). This is actually more evidence that the fourth beast in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream vision was not Rome, but the Islamic Caliphate.

It should not surprise us that we learn about the Antichrist by studying a biblical figure as ungodly as Antiochus. In the same way that Jesus could say, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), if we have seen the Devil’s people we have seen the Devil. Thus, for example, when Jesus was speaking to the very evil religious leaders of his time, he said, “You are of your father the Devil, and you want to do the desires of your father” (John 8:44).

“toward the south, and toward the east.” This is historically accurate concerning Antiochus Epiphanes, who had great military success in Egypt to the south, as well as to the east, where he had victories in Persia, Parthia, and Armenia. Also, he conquered Palestine, “the glorious land.”

“glorious land.” That is, the land of Israel.

Dan 8:10

“army of heaven…stars.” This language helps us see that Antiochus was a true type of the Antichrist, challenging God Himself, but in its historical context the army of heaven and the stars are God’s holy people. We have not yet made the jump to verses that speak strictly of the Antichrist.

“trampled on them.” The horrible persecution of the Jews under Antiochus Epiphanes is well documented by historians.

Dan 8:11

“Commander of the army.” In this context, this refers to God, which is why the text refers to “his” burnt offering and sanctuary. Antiochus had no regard for God at all. He showed his disdain for God and the Jews in many ways, including trying to force the Jews to abandon the Law, demanding that the Jews worship him and the Greek gods rather than Yahweh, desecrating Yahweh’s temple, and also persecuting the Jews and coldly murdering thousands of them.

“brought low.” Antiochus did not destroy the Temple, but he desecrated it. All the practices that elevated the Temple such as the daily sacrifices and priestly services were stopped, and horrific insults to God were made, such as offering a pig on the altar, setting up an altar to Jupiter in the Temple, and destroying every scroll of God’s Word that could be found, and killing anyone found hiding one.

Dan 8:12

“because of transgression.” The sins of the Jews were many both before and after the Babylonian Captivity, and here God tells Daniel that the sins of the Jews will again cause them to be vulnerable to Satanic attack. The book of Maccabees (in the Roman Catholic Apocrypha) shows this to be true (cp. 1 Maccabees 1:11-15), fulfilling Daniel’s prophetic vision.

Dan 8:13

“holy one.” This is an angel. Both angels and God’s holy people are called “holy ones” (see commentary on Daniel 7:18), which makes sense because they are both “holy ones.” The reader must be sensitive to the context to see if the text is referring to a person or an angel. Here in Daniel 8:13, the “holy one” is an angel.

“How long.” Although one angel asked this question to the other angel, it appears he did it for Daniel’s sake because the answer was given directly to Daniel (Dan. 8:14).

Dan 8:14

“For 2,300 evenings and mornings.” The Old Testament always reckoned time by “evening and morning,” not by “morning and evening” as we do. This makes perfect sense because the Hebrew day started at sunset not at midnight like our Western days do. [For more on the hours of the day and watches of the night, see commentary on Mark 6:48].

The period of time covered by 2,300 hundred days is six years and almost four months. This is longer than the Antichrist will have his full power in the book of Revelation (he will wield his full ungodly power for three and a half years). Daniel 8:14 gives us the end of the 2,300 days, which is when the sanctuary is restored. Historically, that was in December of 164 BC. The likely start date of the 2,300 evil days was when a legitimate High Priest of Israel, Onias III, was murdered. The cause of the murder was jealousy and suspicion between Menelaus, the High Priest who had come to power by bribing Antiochus, and Onias, and after Onias was murdered the relationship between Antiochus and the Jews went quickly downhill.

There are scholars who think that the 2,300 evenings and mornings refer to 2,300 sacrifices, one in the evening and one in the morning, which would occur over a period of 1,150 days, but this is short of the three and a half years the Antichrist will be in power in Revelation (but it can be made to fit events in Antiochus’ reign). Nevertheless, to us the stronger position is that the 2,300 evenings and mornings means 2,300 days.

Dan 8:15

mighty man.” The Hebrew word for “man” is geber (#01397 גֶּבֶר), referring to a strong man, a mighty man, a warrior. This was a powerful angel, and we learn from Daniel 8:16 it was Gabriel.

Dan 8:16

“Gabriel.” Means, “God is my strength.”

Dan 8:17

“the time of the end.” This phrase has been the cause of much scholarly debate. There are a few major positions possible. One is that “the time of the end” refers to the end of the time of the prophetic picture being presented, not “the end” of time before the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Scholars have shown that “the end” is used in many ways besides the end days; and similarly, the “last days” have been occurring now for many centuries. Another is that “the time of the end” refers to the time of the Antichrist in Revelation. In that case, Daniel 8:23-26 refers to the Antichrist, not Antiochus Epiphanes. Still another position is that this prophecy is one with a double fulfillment and thus while it was fulfilled by Antiochus, it will be again fulfilled in many ways by the Antichrist. This is the safest conclusion. Usually when “the time of the end” is mentioned, it does refer to the time before the Millennial Kingdom. Furthermore, the parallel between Antiochus and the Antichrist is so close that in seeing Antiochus and his activities we are in fact seeing the time of the End, and the person and actions of the Antichrist.

Dan 8:18(top)
Dan 8:19(top)
Dan 8:20(top)
Dan 8:21

“first king.” This is Alexander the Great.

Dan 8:22

“four kingdoms.” Alexander the Great had two sons, but both of them were murdered, so it happened that after Alexander the Great died, his kingdom was divided up between four generals, who each started kingdoms. The four were: Cassander, who ruled over Macedonia and Greece, the traditional homeland of Greece. Lysimachus who ruled over Thrace, Bithynia, and most of Asia Minor (mostly todays Turkey). Seleucus who controlled Syria and the lands east of it including Babylonia; and Ptolemy, who took control of Egypt. He also controlled Palestine and some of south-eastern Arabia, but those areas were not firmly in his control and they were fought over and went back and forth between being under Seleucid control and Ptolemaic control.

Dan 8:23

“kingdom.” The Hebrew can also be “reign,” “rule.”

“have reached their full measure of sin.” The Hebrew text is more literally, “when the transgressors have finished,” but it refers to completing their sin, which must refer to some measure of sin at which point God had had enough. The HCSB expands the text to read, “when the rebels have reached the full measure of their sin,” which gets the sense of the phrase.

“an insolent king.” The Hebrew text is more literally, a king “strong of face” or “of fierce face,” which is an idiom that can mean insolent, shameless (cp. Prov. 7:13), bold, and of firm conviction. This is a shameless and insolent person who will not be deterred from what he sets out to do by morals, laws, or shame.

“skilled in intrigue.” The Hebrew reads more literally, “understanding riddles” or “discerning unclear things,” but it is also an idiom in this context, because the biblical culture was one that loved riddles and sayings that were unclear. This man is not a riddle solver, or puzzle master, he will be a master of understanding what to do in difficult situations and understanding how to manipulate and control people. Thus, he is “skilled in intrigue” (HCSB; NAB; NASB); a “master of intrigue” (NIV; NLT); “understanding stratagems” (JPS); “deceitful” (NET); and “understanding hidden things” (YLT).

Dan 8:24

“but not by his own power.” The Devil gives the Antichrist his power. This fact is alluded to in prophecy here in Daniel 8:24, but it is not as clearly stated here as it is in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Then in Revelation 13:2 it is stated again.

“he will destroy.” In Daniel 7:25, the believers are given into the power of the Antichrist, and here in Daniel 8:24, Antiochus and, by foreshadowing, the Antichrist, will destroy God’s holy people.

“the holy people.” The literal Hebrew is “the people of the holy ones.” There are two suggestions as to how to understand and translate this. The genitive can be a kind of genitive of possession and mean “the people belonging to the holy ones,” where “belonging to” means something more like “protected by.” In that case, the “holy ones” would be angels as they are in Daniel 8:13. However, the idea that the holy people are protected by God’s holy angels is not a common theme, and therefore the more likely possibility is that the genitive is a genitive of apposition, and the text means, “the people, that is, the holy ones,” or we would often just say, “the holy people” as we have done in the REV. [For the designation “holy ones” referring to God’s people, see commentary on Daniel 7:18].

Dan 8:25

“By his cunning he will cause deceit to prosper under his hand.” In order to understand how the Antichrist will succeed, we must see the semantic range of some of the words in this phrase and also see the idiom involving “hand.” The word “cunning” (sekel #07922 שֶׂכֶל) can also mean “understanding” or “insight,” and it certainly means that here, but when used in a negative situation it also means “cunning,” “craftiness” (CJB), and even “treachery” (cp. NET).

The phrase “under his hand” (more literally “in his hand”), refers to both his own power and also his authority as exercised over others. Biblically, to be under someone’s hand is to be under their authority or power. So a very free and expansive translation of this verse could be something like: “The Antichrist will succeed in his purposes due to his understanding and insight and by virtue of the fact that he is cunning, deceitful and treacherous, and he will use his own power to accomplish his will and also accomplish his evil purposes through those he controls.”

“in his own mind.” The Hebrew is “in his heart,” but in this context it refers to his mind, what he thinks. The Hebrews did not know the function of the brain and assigned thinking to the heart. [For more on the use of the word “heart” in the Bible, see commentary on Prov. 15:21].

“in a time of peace.” The Hebrew is difficult due to the cryptic nature of the phrase, which is simply, “and in peace will destroy many.” This had led some translators say something like, “He will destroy many in a time of peace” (HCSB). However, there are other translators who think the phrase refers to the fact that the people are deceived into not expecting attack and thus are at peace themselves. So, for example, the NASB has, “And he will destroy many while they are at ease.”

It is likely that both meanings are true. The Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel, and that covenant no doubt promises peace (Dan 9:27). But he breaks the covenant and will attack without warning “in a time of peace.” However, during that time of peace, the people unwisely feel peaceful and safe but are attacked without warning (1 Thess. 5:3). Given that people are usually feeling peaceful and at ease in a time of peace, the REV reads “in a time of peace,” which certainly is true. The suddenness and ferocity of the attack is the reason that the ESV reads “without warning,” and while that is certainly true, that translation omits that it will be a time of peace, which we felt was important.

“but not by human power.” The Hebrew is more literally, “without hand he is broken” (YLT). In this context, the idiomatic use of “hand” refers to human power. The Antichrist will be broken, but not by any kind of regular earthly fighting; not by human armies. We learn from the New Testament that the Prince of Princes will use the spoken word to destroy the Antichrist and his system (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:15, 21).

Dan 8:26(top)
Dan 8:27

“exhausted.” This Hebrew word is unclear, but this seems to be the general meaning of the text, and most translators agree (cp. “fainted,” JPS, KJV; “weak,” CJB, NAB; “overcome,” NLT, NRSV). Exhaustion and weakness is also a natural human reaction to emotional shock and mental stress. To us today, Daniel’s vision was mostly of ancient events that are long past, but to Daniel, those events were coming upon the world and his people, the Jews, and as we now know from history, would have a great impact upon them. Besides, although the vision included successive empires, there was no portrayal of the restoration of the Jewish nation. There would be centuries of heartache before then.

“could not understand it.” This seems to be a natural understanding of Daniel’s situation, although some scholars think the Hebrew is more like, “there was no one to explain it.” But even so, that would result in Daniel’s not understanding the vision.


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