In this chapter we find another vision that God gave Daniel. The first two verses supply the setting. This vision came two years after the vision in chapter seven. The chapter seven vision came in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. This one occurred in the third year of his reign.
The city of Susa was located about 230 miles East of Babylon, where Daniel lived. After Daniel’s time, Susa became a much more important city in the Persian Empire.
The first thing Daniel saw in the vision was a ram. It had two horns, says Daniel; and although one horn came up after the other, it stood higher than the first. This should remind you of something in the chapter seven vision. The beast that looked like a bear was raised up on one side, which is a parallel to the ram’s horns. A point of general importance here is the fact that the horns are the locus of power for any horned animal.
Then Daniel saw the ram charge to the West, North and South, every direction but East. And nothing could withstand the ram. It did as it pleased (vv. 3-4). Again there is a parallel in the chapter seven vision. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth symbolized nations that the bear devoured. Here the ram was devouring nations in three directions.
Next Daniel saw a he-goat come from the West. The goat had one large, conspicuous horn between its eyes (v. 5). The goat skimmed over the earth, which symbolizes rapid conquest.
Then the goat charged into the ram, breaking its two horns; and thus the goat completely overcame the ram (v.7). This was a great victory for the goat, but it didn’t last. Verse eight tells us that goat’s horn was broken at the height of its powers. And four conspicuous horns grew in its place. Once again this reminds us of something in the chapter seven vision. It reminds us of the third beast, the leopard, which had four heads. Those four heads likely parallel the four horns here.
As Daniel continued to watch the vision unfold, he saw a little horn emerge from one of the four. This one expanded its territory towards the East and South, toward the “glorious land” (v. 9). The “glorious land” is the land of Israel.
Here again we see a similarity to the previous vision, though it also presents a difference. The previous vision spoke of a little horn kingdom arising out of four prior kingdoms; but in that vision we saw 10 horns (kingdoms) in between the four and the little horn kingdom. Here there is no mention of 10 kingdoms in between.
Verse 10 is obscure, but it probably is a symbolic way of expressing the death of many saints in the “glorious land.” Verse 24, when we get to it, indicates that many of them would die
In verse 11 Daniel saw the little horn magnify himself over the “Prince of the host.” There is debate about the identification of this Prince. He was either the king of Israel at the time, or Israel itself. At any rate, the little horn took over the Temple sanctuary and stopped the daily sacrifices (vv. 11-12).
Then in verse 13 the question of the duration of the little horn’s oppression is raised. And an answer is given in verse 14. It will last “two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”
Scholars debate the meaning of this answer. Some have wanted to interpret it as a reference to the morning and evening sacrifices that were stopped. If that were correct, the period would be 1,150 days. But most agree that the Hebrew people did not think that way. A biblical parallel to this kind of expression would be the expression “forty days and nights” found in the Old Testament (Gen. 7:4, 12; Ex. 24:18; 1 Kgs. 19:8). That expression means a full forty days, and similarly this one means a full 2,300 days.
In years this is about 6.3 years. That time period does not match up with any of the other time periods mentioned in Daniel; and neither would the other interpretation. So it may be better to take it as a symbolic number that suggests the time of oppression by the little horn would last less than seven years, the ideal number.
Now at verse 15 we come to the interpretation that an angel gave to Daniel. Daniel saw the archangel Gabriel; and he heard a voice, probably the voice of God, telling Gabriel to reveal the meaning of the vision to Daniel (vv. 15-16).
Daniel was frightened, perhaps because he thought this would soon come to pass. However Gabriel told Daniel that the vision related not to Daniel’s time, but to the time of the end (v. 17). Next, Gabriel gives Daniel a clear interpretation of the kingdoms symbolized in the vision.
The ram with the two horns represented the kings of Media-Persia. The he-goat with the conspicuous horn was Alexander the great. And the four horns that arose out of his broken horn were the four kingdoms formed by Alexander’s generals after his untimely death.
One general took over Macedonia and Greece (Cassandar). Another took over Asia Minor (Lysimachus). But those were not important to Palestine. A third general took over Egypt and Palestine. His name was Ptolemy. And a fourth, Seleucus, took over the Old Persian Empire. The descendants of these two generals, known as the Ptolemies and Seleucids, fought constantly over Palestine.
Gabriel did not identify by name the little horn king, whom he described as a “king of bold countenance” who would arise “at the latter end of their rule.” But there is no doubt that at the historical level he was Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, the Seleucid king who ruled from 175-164 B.C. This will become clear from the final vision in chapters 10-12. But remember, Gabriel had said that this vision was “for the time of the end” (v. 17). So this vision has to have an end-time application as well. This is the so-called “prophetic perspective,” where prophecies have more than one application. Here there are two. There will be an historical fulfillment in Antiochus IV, and an end-time fulfillment in the antichrist.
Thus Antiochus becomes a type of the end-time antichrist; and the series of characteristics that are listed in the passage are true of both. He “understands riddles” (v. 23). “His power shall be great.” “He shall cause fearful destruction, and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people of the saints.” “He shall make deceit prosper.” “In his own mind he shall magnify himself” “And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes (vv. 24-25).
Some might want to argue that the last king is the end-time antichrist and that it does not refer to Antiochus. But at the historical level it likely is a general reference to Antiochus’ rebellion against God.
Then in the middle of verse 25 we get what I have called the “leap to the end-time.” “But by no human hand shall he be broken.” Once again we are reminded of something we saw earlier in the book. It reminds us of the stone that destroyed the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two, where that dream leapt to the end-time. That stone was “cut out by no human hand” (2:34).
Now then, I believe this chapter is very important to our proper understanding of the book-as-a-whole. In apocalyptic literature, when the author gives you an interpretation of certain important symbols, these become a key to interpretation of the parts of the work where no interpretation was given.
So now we could venture an interpretation of the kingdoms symbolized by the dream in chapter two and the visions in chapters seven and eight. But I still want to hold that task until we have seen all of the visions.