Daniel received a vision of a “ram” that was overthrown by a “goat” with a prominent horn, representing Greece – Daniel 8:1-14.
In the third year of Belshazzar, Daniel received a vision of a “ram” and “goat,” with the ram representing the “Medes and Persians,” and the goat representing Greece and its first great king. The vision is followed by its interpretation by an angelic figure. The focus of the vision is the “little horn,” which symbolizes a malevolent king who would descend from Greece and persecute the saints.
The vision in chapter 8 is related to the vision of the “fourth beast” and its “little horn” from chapter 7. There are multiple structural and verbal. The imagery in chapter 7 is “apocalyptic,” cosmic, and enigmatic, but in chapter8, the vision and its interpretation contain clear historical references.
Two of the four “kingdoms” from chapter 7 are named in chapter 8 – the kingdom of the “Medes and Persians” and “Greece.” Both visions were received in the reign of Belshazzar, both were interpreted by an angel, and both end with Daniel “troubled” by what he saw. The subject common to both is the assault against the “people of the saints” by the malevolent figure known as the “little horn.”
This vision occurred in 550 B.C., the same year that Cyrus the Great annexed the kingdom of the “Medes” to his Persian domain. At that time, his realm became the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians” – (Daniel 8:1-3).
In verse 1, the original text reverts from Aramaic to Hebrew (Aramaic was used from Daniel 2:4 to 8:1). This marks the start of the second half of the book.
The name “Shushan” or “Susa” refers to the ancient capital of the Median province of Elam located between Babylon and Persia. “Ulai” was the waterway along which the city was built. Susa became a prominent royal city in the Persian Empire – (Nehemiah 1:1, Esther 1:1-2).
Alongside the river, Daniel saw the “ram with two horns.” One horn came up after the first and grew even higher, which corresponded to the “bear” in the previous vision that had one side elevated higher than the other. The “ram” was pushing “westward, northward, and southward.” No one could withstand it. It represented the “kingdom of Media and Persia” – (Daniel 8:4-8).
With the rise of Cyrus the Great, his empire expanded rapidly in all directions, but especially to the south, west, and north. To the south it conquered Babylon, Egypt, and Libya; to the west, Lydia and much of Asia Minor; and to the north, Armenia and the Scythians in the Caucasus.
Next, Daniel saw the “goat” charge out of the west so rapidly that its feet “touched not the ground.” It had one prominent horn between its eyes and rushed headlong into the “ram,” casting it to the ground and breaking its horns.
The prominent horn represented the first and greatest “king of Greece,” who could only be Alexander the Great, the Macedonian warlord who conquered the Persian Empire in only three years. However, at the height of its strength, the goat’s prominent horn was broken and replaced by four “notable horns,” which were aligned with the “four winds of heaven.”
There are several conceptual links to the third “beast” in chapter 7, the leopard. Its “wings” symbolized swiftness in conquest. Likewise, the “goat” conquered so swiftly that its feet did not touch the ground. The leopard had “four heads,” just as the “prominent horn of the goat” was broken and replaced by four lesser horns.
- (Daniel 8:9-14) – “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 glorious land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars, it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them. Yea, it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the continual burnt-offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it together with the continual burnt offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who spoke: How long shall be the vision concerning the continual burnt-offering, and the transgression that desolates, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said to me: Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”
The “little horn” emerged from one of the four lesser horns and “waxed great” to the south, east, and to the “glorious land,” most likely representing the land of Judea. It may refer to Mount Zion itself where the sanctuary was situated.
The “little horn” waxed great against “the beauty… and against the host of heaven.” It removed the “daily burnt offering and cast down the sanctuary.” This describes an assault against the Temple and its sacrificial rituals. it cast down stars and “trampled them underfoot.” These are additional links to the “little horn” in chapter 7 where the “little horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them…and spoke words against the Most-High to wear out His saints” – (Daniel 7:21-25).
The “little horn” exalted itself against the “Prince of the Host.” Elsewhere, Yahweh is the Lord of hosts, and therefore, this term probably refers to Him. The “little horn” attempted to trespass on things that were God’s prerogative.
Daniel heard one angel ask about the “desolating transgression.” This introduces the key term that links this vision with the remaining visions of the book, the “transgression” or “abomination that desolates.”
“Desolate” translates the participle form of the Hebrew verb shamem, meaning “desolate, make desolate, devastate.” The angel’s question highlights the vision’s concern, the removal of the daily burnt offering, and its restoration. In other words, the disruption of the sacrificial system and the desecration of the Temple – (Daniel 8:13, 9:27, 11:31, 12:11).
The “little horn” acted wickedly but did not do so of its own accord. Note the first question: “How long is the vision…for both sanctuary and host to be given over to be trampled?” This implies divine purpose. The sanctuary was given to the “little horn” to be “trampled underfoot” for the appointed time – (See Daniel 7:20-22).
Another angel responded: “Until two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings, then will the sanctuary be cleansed.” That was the goal – to cleanse the sanctuary. The preposition rendered “until” confirms that this profanation was according to a divine decree and would end at the predetermined time.
The sanctuary would be restored rather than destroyed. The purpose was purgation, not destruction. In the end, the “little horn” itself would be “broken without hand,” but the sanctuary would be restored – (Daniel 8:25).
The expression “evening-morning” was used in the creation story in Genesis for a full day. The phrase has no conjunction between the two nouns, and they form a single unit of measure, the “evening-morning” – (Genesis 1:5-31).
The passage concerns the cessation of the daily burnt offering, not the original creation. “Evening-morning” is explained by the context. It refers to the daily burnt offerings that were made each morning and evening as required in the Law – (Leviticus 6:8-18).
If that is the correct background, the 2,300 “evenings-mornings” equates to one thousand eleven hundred and fifty days (1,150). The vision was then interpreted by an angel and recorded in the last half of the chapter.