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31 December 2018

Vision of the Ram and the Goat - (Daniel 8:1-14)

Near East Empire Map
Next, Daniel received a vision about a "ram" and a male "goat" (Daniel 8:1-14). The ram represents the kingdom of the "Medes and Persians" that replaced the Babylonian Empire; the goat represents Greece and its first great king that overthrew Persia.
The vision is followed by its interpretation provided by an angelic figure. The real focus of the vision is on a particular king descended from one of the four Hellenistic kingdoms that arose after the death of the first great king of Greece, Alexander (Daniel 8:1-27).
The two visions in chapters 7 and 8 are related; there are structural, verbal and conceptual parallels. The imagery of chapter 7 is “apocalyptic” and cosmic; that of chapter 8 contains clear historical references. Two of the four kingdoms of chapter 7 are named. Both visions occur in the reign of Belshazzar (Daniel 7:1; 8:1); both are interpreted by an angel (7:2-14; 7:15-27; 8:2-14; 8:15-26); both end with Daniel alarmed by what he has seen (7:28; 8:27).
A theme common to both visions is an assault against “the people of the saints” by a malevolent figure, the “little horn” (7:21; 8:9; 8:24).
The preceding vision came “in the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon” (7:1). Parallel wording is another indicator the two visions are connected (8:1, “In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first"). “After…at the first” refers to the preceding.
This vision occurred in 550 BC in the reign of Babylon’s last ruler, about the time the kingdom of Media was annexed by Cyrus the Great, making his realm the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians.”
(Daniel 8:2-4) - “In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king, a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; now it was so that when I saw I was in Shushan the capital, in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision and I was by the river Ulai. Then I lifted up my eyes and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other and the higher came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; and no beasts could stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will and magnified himself.”
In Daniel 8:1 the original text reverts from Aramaic to Hebrew (Aramaic is used from Daniel 2:4 to 8:1). This change marks the start of the second half of the book. “Shushan” or “Susa” was the ancient capital of the Median province of Elam between Babylon and Persia. “Ulai” was the name of the waterway on which the city was built.
The text does not state that Daniel was physically in Susa. Possibly he found himself “in Susa” as part of his visionary experience. It became a prominent royal city in the Persian Empire (Nehemiah 1:1; Esther 1:1-2).
Alongside the river, Daniel saw a ram with two horns, and one horn came up after the first and was raised higher than it. This movement corresponds to the image of the bear in which one side of the beast was elevated higher than the other (Daniel 7:5).
The ram was pushing “westward, northward and southward.” None could stand before it; it did according to its will. The ram with two horns is later identified as the “kings of Media and Persia” (8:20).
This empire expanded rapidly in all directions but particularly to the south, west, and north. To its south, it conquered Babylonia, Egypt, and Libya. To the west, it absorbed Lydia and most of Asia Minor, including its Greek cities. To the north, it took Armenia and the Scythians.
This ram did “according to his will and magnified himself.” This stresses its belief that its success was due to its own prowess.
(Daniel 8:5-8) - “And as I was considering, behold, a he-Goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had the two horns, which I saw standing before the river, and ran upon him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close to the ram, and he was moved with anger against him and smote the ram, and broke his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him; but he cast him down to the ground and trampled upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. And the he-Goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong the great horn was broken; instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of heaven.”
Daniel now sees a male goat charging out of the west so rapidly that its feet “touch not the ground.” The goat has a prominent horn between its eyes. It rushes headlong into the ram with great fury and casts it to the ground, breaking both horns in the process. The ram is powerless to resist; none can deliver it from the goat.
The goat is identified as the “king” or “kingdom of Greece” (8:21), its prominent horn its “first king.” The latter can be none other than Alexander the Great (cp. Daniel 11:1-4), the Macedonia warlord who conquered the Persian Empire.
At the height of the goat’s strength, its prominent horn is broken and replaced by four “notable horns” oriented toward the “four winds of heaven” (cp. 7:2, 11:4: “his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven”).
There are conceptual links to the third beast of Daniel 7:6, the leopard with four wings symbolizing swift conquest. Similarly, the goat moves so swiftly its feet do not touch the ground. Alexander conquered the entire Persian Empire within three years, an astonishing feat considering the vast distances his army covered on foot and horseback.
The leopard in Daniel 7:6 had four heads, just as this goat’s prominent horn is broken and replaced by four “notable horns.” As will be seen, this imagery fits neatly with the history of Alexander’s Greco-Macedonian empire.
(Daniel 8:9-14) - “And out of the first of them came forth a little horn, which became exceedingly great against the south and against the east, and against the beauty; yea, it became great as far as the host of the heavens, and caused to fall to the earth some of the host and some of the stars, and trampled them underfoot; even as far as the Prince of the host showed he his greatness, and because of him was taken away the daily burnt offering, and the place of the Sanctuary was cast down; and a host was given against the daily burnt offering because of transgression, and faithfulness was cast down to the ground, and so he acted with effect and succeeded. Then heard I a certain holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that certain holy one who was speaking, ‘How long is the vision of the daily burnt offering as taken away and the transgression that desolates, for both Sanctuary and host to be given over to be trampled underfoot?’ And he said unto him, ‘Until two thousand and three hundred evening-mornings, then shall the Sanctuary be vindicated’.”
Four “notable horns” replace the original prominent horn. From one of the four emerges a “little horn” that “waxes great” towards the south, east and the “glorious land.” The “little horn” is a verbal link to the “little horn” in Daniel 7:8.
Some dispute this identification because the first “little horn” rose out of ten horns but this one appears from one of the goat’s four horns. But this ignores the different formats used in the two visions, and the “little horn” in 8:9 is not the only link between the two figures.
The slight difference in the spelling of “little horn” in the original texts of Daniel 7:8 and 8:9 is attributable to the use of Aramaic in 7:8 and Hebrew in 8:9. The Hebrew noun in 8:9 (מצעירה) means little, insignificant, as does the corresponding Aramaic noun in 7:8 (זעיר). The form of either Aramaic or Hebrew for horn (קרן) is identical in both passages.
The beauty” may mean the “beautiful land,” though “land” is not present in the Hebrew clause (cp. Daniel 11:16; 11:41). It may instead refer to Mount Zion where the Sanctuary was situated (e.g., Psalm 48:1-2; 50:2). The “little horn” waxes great against “the beauty,” “against the host of heaven,” “removed the daily burnt-offering,” and “cast down the Sanctuary.” This describes an assault against the Temple and its rituals, not Judea or the land of Palestine.
The overthrow of the Sanctuary and assault against God’s people are described with mythological terms. The “little horn” waxes great even to “the host of heaven,” casts down stars and “tramples them underfoot.” These are further verbal links to the “little horn” of chapter 7, which “made war with the saints and prevailed against them” (7:21), and “spoke words against the Most High to wear out His saints” (7:25).
The “little horn” exalts itself over against the “Prince of the Host.” Since elsewhere in the Old Testament Yahweh is the Lord of hosts, this designation probably refers to Him. The “little horn” attempts to trespass on things that are God’s prerogative.
Then Daniel heard one angelic being ask another, “how long shall be the vision concerning the daily burnt-offering and the transgression that desolates, to give both the Sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” This introduces a thematic phrase that links this with the remaining visions of the book: the “transgression” or “abomination that desolates” (8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). “Desolates” translates a participle form of the Hebrew verb shamem, to “desolate, make desolate, devastate, appall.”
The angel’s question highlights the real concern of the vision: the removal of the daily burnt offering and its restoration; that is, the disruption of the sacrificial system and the desecration of the Temple.
The “little horn” is a malevolent figure that acts wickedly but does not do so entirely of its own accord. Note the first angel’s question: “How long is the vision…for both Sanctuary and host to be given over to be trampled?” This implies divine purpose in the assault against the Sanctuary; it has been “given” to the “little horn” to be “tramples underfoot.” In part, this is Divine judgment on the Sanctuary and God’s people (cp. Daniel 7:20-22).
A second angel answers, “until two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the Sanctuary be cleansed.” The goal of the vision is expressly stated: the cleansing of the Sanctuary. The preposition “until” confirms this profanation is according to the divine decree. The attack of the “little horn” ends at a predetermined time.
The Sanctuary will be vindicated and restored, not destroyed, which points to divinely appointed judgment for a specific time period. The purpose is purgation and restoration, not destruction. In the end, the “little horn” will “be broken without hand” but the Sanctuary restored (8:25).
The expression “evening-morning” is used in the Creation story to represent a full day (Genesis 1:5-31). Accordingly, some conclude 2,300 “literal” solar days are meant. But the phrase has no conjunction between the two nouns, no “and”; the two words form a single unit of measure. The description in Genesis is fuller and specific: “So it was evening and it was morning, one day” (Genesis 1:5).
The passage concerns the cessation of the daily burnt offering, not the Creation story. “Evening-morning” is better explained in context of the daily burnt-offering, for in the “law of the burnt offering” sacrifices were laid on the altar “from evening until morning” (Leviticus 6:8-18). If this is correct, then two thousand three hundred “evenings-mornings” equals one thousand eleven hundred and fifty days (1,150).

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