Sapphire Sky

December 9, 2016

The Ram and The Goat

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 10:18 pm

billy-goat-1698303_1920

 

We used to raise goats, and this passage reminded me of how difficult, stubborn, and hostile a male goat can be!

But to Daniel, the vision in chapter 8 was a terrifying preview of what was to come.

Daniel was working for the king during the declining times of the Babylonian empire when God gave him a vision of a great ram. The ram had two horns and stood on the banks of a canal, defeating anyone and anything that came against him.

Then, a large goat with a single horn between his eyes came out of the west after the ram. The goat attacked the ram, broke his horns, and trampled him.

Then the goat’s horn broke and was replaced by four smaller horns.

Then a fifth little horn grew out of the four horns. This little horn became great and dominated the Holy Land. It trampled some of the stars and considered itself to be as great as God himself. The little horn overthrew the sanctuary of God and stopped His offerings. This little horn would have power for just over three years.

The great and wise Daniel tried to understand this vision but it was beyond him. He saw the vision (8:2), he considered what he saw (8:5), and he sought to understand it (8:15). Finally, Daniel fainted when the angel Gabriel came to help him!

Gabriel woke Daniel and told him the explanation. The ram was the kings of Media and Persia. We know from history that Media and Persia form an alliance shortly after this time. In about ten years, the Median and Persian alliance would come and defeat Babylon (Daniel 5).

The goat was the king of Greece. We know from history that Alexander the Great came 200 years later, quickly conquering the Medio-Persian empire. Alexander would later die at the height of his power, leaving his great empire to four lesser leaders.

So far, this vision has been very close to what was shown in the previous vision (see here). Both visions predicted the rise of the Medio-Persian and the Greek empires, but this vision showed Daniel one of the greatest horrors that would befall his people.

A ruler would emerge from the Greek empire. He would grow his empire toward the Holy Land and dominate the Jewish people. He would kill many people and oppose God himself. He would stop the sacrifices and persecute God’s people for three years.

This prediction was fulfilled with the rule of Antiochus IV, who ruled the Seleucid empire from 175-163 B.C.3 Antiochus gave himself the title “Epiphanes”, meaning, “manifestation of God”. He was determined to force Greek culture (Hellenize) upon his Jewish subjects. This included Greek language and way of life, but also required the Jews to worship the Greek gods.

Antiochus returned from a humiliating defeat in Egypt in 168 B.C. and vented his frustration on the Jews, sending his troops to seize Jerusalem. The Jews were banned, under penalty of death, from offering sacrifices or performing Jewish rites. Antiochus went even further and desecrated the temple by placing an idol of Zeus in it and offering a pig on the altar. This became known to the Jews as the “Abomination of Desolation”.

But the vision also gave Daniel hope. The persecution of God’s people would only last for three years. After this period,the temple would be restored to its rightful state.

There was a faithful priest who lived during the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. This priest, Mattathias, fled to the wilderness with his five sons and fought back against the Greek rulers. His son Judas led an uprising against the Greek rulers and was given the title, “Maccabaus”, or “the hammer”. Under Judas’ leadership, the Jews retook Jerusalem and restored the temple. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates this occasion when, on December 25, 165 B.C., the faithful Jews rededicated the newly cleansed temple. This was exactly three years after Antiochus desecrated the temple.

God also promised that this ruler would be destroyed without human hand. Historians recorded that Antiochus died suddenly of a mysterious illness (probably cancer), shortly after his defeat in Jerusalem, and the temple was restored.

But there was more to what God was telling to Daniel. Antiochus Epiphanes would be a cruel, wicked tyrant. He would kill and persecute many of the Jews, but Antiochus was only a preview of what is still to come. In terms of history, Antiochus was a petty Greek ruler, but there will come a ruler with the same evil and intrigue as Antiochus, yet with much more power. This ruler, also known as the Antichrist, will declare himself to be God and will destroy many people.  He will rise up against God and will have power for a limited time. Yet in the end, he will be destroyed by God Himself.

Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Daniel lists the characteristics that both Antiochus and the Antichrist will share:3

  • Both begin modestly but increase in power and influence.
  • Both blaspheme God with mouths that speak great things.
  • Both persecute the Jewish people.
  • Both claim to be gods and put images in the temple.
  • Both impose their own religion on the people.
  • Both are opposed by a believing remnant that knows God.
  • Both are energized by the devil and are great deceivers.
  • Both appear to succeed marvelously and seem to be invincible.
  • Both are finally defeated by the coming of a redeemer.

 

Remember!

What does this story have to do with a reader in the 21st century? We live thousands of years after Alexander and Antiochus. It is a compelling story of history, but God has a lot more to tell us!

First, remember that God may delay his judgement, but he does not forget. This final king will rise in the latter times when “transgressors have reached their limit” (Daniel 8:23). If you are running from God, He is waiting for you to come back. But don’t exhaust His limit! If you keep running from Him, judgement is coming!

Second, remember how little we are in God’s sight! Daniel was one of the greatest and wisest men of his day, but this vision left him completely undone! He could not understand the meaning of the vision, and he fainted in the presence of the angel. Gabriel gave Daniel the final explanation, and it left him sick for days!

Finally, remember that God is in control, even through the darkest times of history. It must have been a great comfort to the Jews under Antiochus, knowing that his time would be limited. We may not have a specific prophecy for our own struggles in life, but God has not forgotten about us! God knows the end of our struggles!

 

Previous post: The History of the World


Daniel 8 

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.

As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.

Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”

And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power. And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”

And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.


Daniel 8:1-2
In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal.

The setting of Daniel 8 is in the third year of Belshazzar, or about 550 B.C. This was about ten years before the events of Daniel 5, when the Persian army would conquer Babylon.1

Daniel’s vision took place in the city of Susa, a small city in Elam. Susa had little significance to the Babylonians but it would later become the royal capital of the Persian Empire. Both Esther and Nehemiah were in Susa.

Daniel may have been sent to Susa on official business (Daniel 8:27) or else he was transported there by God in the vision (see Ezekiel 8).

Daniel returned to writing in Hebrew starting in chapter 8. Many Bible scholars expect that Daniel used Hebrew because the emphasis is now on the Jews and not the Gentiles.2

Daniel would have been about 70 years old at the time of this vision.

 

Daniel 8:3-4
I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.

Daniel first saw a ram standing on the bank of the canal. One horn was higher than the other and the ram charged west, north, and south.

We find out later in the chapter that the ram represents the Medio-Persian empire (Daniel 8:20).  The higher horn would represent the fact that Persia dominated the alliance. This is similar to the bear which was raised up on one side in Daniel 7:5 (see here). Persia was in the east and expanded its empire to the west, north, and south.

The ram was a common symbol of Persia at that time. Persian kings used this as their battle symbol.2

Note that Daniel saw this vision of the Medio-Persian empire before they had defeated Babylon, and before Media and Persia had formed an alliance.

 

Daniel 8:5-7
As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power.

Daniel next saw a male goat come from the west and attack the ram. The goat had a single horn on the front of his head and he ran without touching the ground. The ram was completely powerless before the goat. He struck the ram, broke his two horns, cast him down and trampled on him. The goat was similar to the four-headed leopard in Daniel 7:6 (see here).

We find out later in the chapter that the goat represents the king of Greece (Daniel 8:21) and the horn represents the first Greek king. Alexander the Great conquered Persia by 331 B.C. and extended the Greek empire from Europe to India.

Like the goat, the Greeks came from the west and conquered eastward.

Note that the Alexander’s empire occurred over 200 years after Daniel’s vision!

 

Daniel 8:8
Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.

The single horn was broken and was replaced by four smaller horns. Alexander died in Babylon in 323 B.C. Within 20 years, his empire was divided among four of his generals (see here).

 

Daniel 8:9-12
Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper.

So far, this vision closely parallels the leopard and the bear in Daniel 7. But this vision has more specific details that will affect God’s people. A little horn will grow out of the four horns and will become great.

A king will emerge from the four Greek kings who divided Alexander’s empire. He will expand southward and westward and overshadow the land of Israel. He will destroy some of the faithful Jews4 and declare himself as a god. He will stop the regular offerings to the God of Israel and overthrow the temple. God will allow this because of the transgressions of His people. This king will rule and prosper through lies and deceit.

Historians and Bible scholars identify that these events happened under the rule of Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”, who ruled the Seleucid empire from 175-163 B.C.3 Antiochus gave himself the title “Epiphanes”, meaning, “manifestation of God”.

Antiochus banned the Jews, under penalty of death, from offering sacrifices or performing Jewish rites. He placed an idol of Zeus in the temple and desecrated the altar by offering a pig on it. This became known to the Jews as the “Abomination of Desolation” (see also Daniel 11:31).2

The “because of transgression” spoken of in this prophecy likely indicates the unfaithfulness of the resident Jews. There were many Jews who embraced the Greek religion and abandoned worship to the One True God. These Jews supported Antiochus’ rule in Jerusalem.

There is a close similarity between the “little horn” in Daniel 8 and the “little horn” in Daniel 7 (see here). The most notable difference is that the little horn in Daniel 7 emerges from the ten kings in the later Roman Empire (fourth kingdom). The little horn in Daniel 8 emerges from the four kings in the Greek Empire (third kingdom). The rule of Antiochus in Daniel 8 serves as a preview of the horrors and atrocities which will happen under the future Antichrist (from Daniel 7).

 

Daniel 8:13-14
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

Daniel heard an angel (a “holy one”) in his vision, asking how long this persecution of the Jews would last. The answer from another angel is that it will last for “2,300 evenings and mornings”, or just over three years.5

The “transgression that makes desolate” is the same as the “Abomination of Desolation” in Daniel 11:31 (see above).

History tells that one of the faithful priests, Mattathias, fled to the wilderness with his five sons. Mattathias’ son Judas led an uprising against the Greek rulers and was given the title, “Maccabaus”, or “the hammer”. Judas led the Jews in retaking Jerusalem and rededicated the temple on December 25, 165 B.C. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates this occasion (also call the “Feast of Dedication” in John 10, see here).

Judas Maccabaus rededicated the temple almost exactly three years from when Antiochus set up the “Abomination of Desolation”.

 

Daniel 8:15-17
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”

A voice instructed the angel Gabriel to explain the vision to Daniel. Daniel was frightened at the appearance of the angel and fell down, but Gabriel explained that the vision is for the “time of the end”.

The term, “time of the end” has a double meaning. First, the vision tells about what will happen at the end of this specific sequence. The vision tells about the rule of both the Persians and the Greeks, and their domination over God’s people. The atrocities of Antiochus will happen at the end of the Greek rule over the Jews.

But there is another meaning that also applies to this prophecy. This is not simply a prediction of the Greek ruler who will persecute the Jews in the second century B.C. This prophecy is also about the end times, or what will happen at the end of this world.

 

Daniel 8:18-19
And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end.

Daniel fainted in the presence of the angel, but the angel awoke him with a touch and made him stand. Once again, this is a reminder that this prophecy is not only for the future, but also for the end times.

“’The indignation’ refers to God’s displeasure with His people and the times of intense suffering Israel would endure before the coming of the end and the establishing of the promised kingdom.” – Wiersbe3

 

Daniel 8:20-22
As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.

Gabriel showed Daniel that the ram was the kings of Media and Persia, and the goat was the king of Greece. The great horn is the first king (Alexander) and the four succeeding horns are the four kingdoms which will divide Alexander’s empire.

Daniel received this prediction about the kings of Media and Persia before these two nations had built their alliance, and over ten (10) years before they defeat Babylon.

Daniel received this prediction about the king of Greece almost 200 years before Alexander was even born!

 

Daniel 8:23-26
And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”

Antiochus ruled with both treachery and pride. He was not killed by human hand but he died of a sudden illness in 163 B.C. (Josephus said it was cancer).

But many Bible scholars see the “king of bold face” as more than Antiochus Epiphanes, and as the Antichrist who will rise up in the last days.

Antiochus Epiphanes lived before Christ, yet Jesus spoke of the Abomination of Desolation, and indicated that Daniel’s prophecy was a future event (see Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14).

The New Testament also speaks of the Antichrist with parallels to what is described here: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 describes the Man of Lawlessness. Revelation 13:1-10 gives a terrifying description of the Antichrist as “the beast”.

 

Daniel 8:27
And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

Daniel was so overwhelmed by the vision that it left him physically ill for several days. He was still perplexed afterward, even after resuming the king’s business.

 


 

[1] As discussed in the notes on Daniel 7 (see here), we do not know the precise date that Belshazzar was appointed to the throne. This date assumes that Belshazzar became king in 553 B.C.

 

[2] Frank E. Gaebelein, Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 7 (Zondervan, 1985), Daniel 8, pages 95-106

 

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: Old Testament (David C. Cook, 2007), Daniel 8, pages 1372-1375

 

[4] Daniel 8:10 says, “It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them.” This prophetic imagery is difficult to understand but many commentators interpret the “host of heaven” and the “stars” as the faithful Jews who stood for God and opposed the rule of this king. See Exodus 12:41 and Daniel 12:3.2

 

[5] Bible scholars interpret the “2,300 evenings and mornings” as either 2,300 days (6 years) or as 1,150 days (3 years, assuming that both an evening and morning comprise a single day). Both views expect that the time ended when the temple was restored in 165 B.C.3

  • 6-year advocates start with 172 B.C., when Antiochus deposed the true high priest.
  • 3-year advocates start with the pagan altar in 168 B.C.

Both of these views are consistent with scripture, although I follow the view of 3 years in these notes (exactly 3 years, 55 days or 3 years, 1 month, 25 days).

 

[6] Judas Maccabaus rededicated the temple on December 25 165 B.C., so 1,150 days earlier would be October 20, 168 B.C. This was over a month before the Abomination of Desolation on December 14, but Antiochus may have abolished the temple sacrifices earlier.2

 

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3 Comments »

  1. Thanks for putting this together. It was very interesting to learn more about AP and encouraging to know that when the Antichrist comes, Jesus will return soon after. Joy to the World!

    Comment by Sam Knaus — December 10, 2016 @ 8:40 am

  2. […] Previous post: The Ram and The Goat […]

    Pingback by Do We Pray? | Sapphire Sky — December 28, 2016 @ 1:09 am

  3. […] that some of these events have been fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century B.C. (see here).  However, Jesus also uses the “abomination of desolation” as a future event in Matthew […]

    Pingback by The Coming King | Sapphire Sky — January 28, 2017 @ 9:48 pm


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