Daniel 8 Commentary–Understanding Daniel 8
Daniel 8 Commentary—Understanding Daniel 8: Summary and Highlights
In the following commentary on Daniel 8, the reader is given an understanding of the fulfillment of Daniel 8. Though sometimes assumed to contain end time prophecies, Daniel 8 was completely fulfilled during the Greek Empire from the fourth to the second century B.C.
Daniel 8 Commentary–Understanding Daniel 8
3I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great. 5As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. 6He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage. 7I saw him attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram form his power. 8The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven. 9Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful land. 10It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. 12Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. 13Then I heard a holy one speaking and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?” 14He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”
Daniel 8:3-14 Commentary—Understanding Daniel 8:3-14: The Greek Conquest of Persia is signified by a Goat Trampling a Ram.
In this vision, Greece’s conquest of Persia is signified by a goat trampling a ram. Interestingly in v. 5, the goat is said to “cross the whole earth without touching the ground.” In other words, the goat had not “trampled on” the earth as it had “trampled on” the rest of the Persian Empire. As stated earlier, throughout the Book of Daniel and Revelation, earth and land are metaphors for the land of Israel while sea represents the Gentile nations. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. The fact that this goat, representing Greece, crossed the whole earth without touching the ground may symbolize the fact that Alexander the Great did not attack or trample on Israel while overthrowing the Persian Empire. Though Alexander the Great left Israel unscathed, Antiochus Epiphanes was not as gracious.
Understanding Daniel 8:9, Realized Eschatology Commentary: The Horn of v. 9 is Antiochus Epiphanes.
The little horn in v. 9 is the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes. Verse 11 says that the little horn would “set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host[.]” Concerning this blasphemous arrogance in fulfillment of v. 9, 2 Maccabees 9:12 records Antiochus Epiphanies own dying words as follows: “It is right to be subject to God, and no mortal should think that he is equal to God.”
Like the “little horn” in Daniel 7 which symbolized Caesar Titus, Antiochus Epiphanies is also said to be a small or little horn in this chapter. “Horns” represent kings throughout the Bible as is explicitly indicated in v. 20. Thus to be a small or little horn is another way of saying “little king.” Labeled a small or little horn in Daniel 8, Antiochus Epiphanies is given this epithet because he is a type of Caesar Titus. The fact that Antiochus Epiphanies and Caesar Titus are both given the same title also hints at their similar actions. Both men set up an abomination that causes desolation in addition to also causing Temple sacrifice to cease Antiochus Epiphanies having done so in the second century B.C. and Titus, in the first century A.D.
In this verse, the reader is told that this horn grew in power to the south, to the east and toward Israel, the Beautiful land. The directions in which this horn grew represent Antiochus’ conquest south to Egypt and east to Babylon and Persia. Amid these triumphs, Israel did not escape.1
In 167 B.C., Antiochus’ army promised to peaceably entered Jerusalem (1 Maccabees 1:29-32). Then once inside, they suddenly attacked. Here one can see how in fulfillment of v. 23 Antiochus Epiphanies was a “master of intrigue.” Having killed a great multitude, the Greeks plundered the city then set it on fire. Caught off guard, the people of Jerusalem fled. Shortly thereafter, Antiochus issued a decree forbidding Temple sacrifices to Yahweh.2 With the Jews gone and the city now overrun with Greek soldiers, Temple sacrifice ceased.3 Then on the 25th day of Chislev, the Greeks offered a desolating sacrifice above the Temple altar.4 Hearing what had happened in Jerusalem, some Jewish rebels conspired to take back the city. After a long, bitter war, the Jews finally took back Jerusalem. And exactly three years after the abomination that causes desolation, the Jewish people offered a lamb to God and once again continued the daily sacrifice.
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of Daniel 8:14, Understanding Daniel 8:14: The 2,300 Evenings and Mornings are 1150 Days.
According to Exodus 29:38-39, the Levites were to offer two sacrifices daily. One lamb was to be sacrificed in the morning and one in the evening. The 2,300 evenings and mornings in v. 14 represent the number of sacrifices that had failed to be offered to God. Thus it would have taken 1150 days or just over three years to offer these 2,300 missing sacrifices.
Though it is not known precisely when the Greeks put an end to Temple sacrifice, it is known that exactly three years had passed between the abominating sacrifice and the recommencement of the daily sacrifice to God. The Jewish people had two calendars, a lunar calendar with a 354 day a year and a solar calendar with a 360 day year. This solar calendar was presumably adopted from the Egyptians while the Hebrew slaves were in captivity in Egypt and reinforced during their Babylonian captivity as both ancient Egypt and Babylon used this 360 day solar calendar. Therefore depending on which calendar was used, three years could be either 1,092 or 1,080 days long.5 So depending on whether the author of 1 Maccabees used a solar or a lunar calendar, there were either seventy or fifty-eight days between the end of the daily sacrifice and the abomination that causes desolation.6 Either interval is consistent with what is known about the Maccabean War from the Book of Maccabees. According to 1Maccabees 1, the Greeks attacked Israel in 167 B.C., stopped Temple sacrifice, and then setup the abominating sacrifice all within the same year.7 Perhaps there were either seventy or fifty-eight days between the cessation of sacrifices to Yahweh and the institution of the abominating sacrifice on the 25th of Chis’lev?8
Understanding Daniel 8:14, A Covenant Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary: The 2,300 Evenings and Mornings are 2,300 Days.
Though the above interpretation is perhaps the most popular, I believe the 2,300 evening and mornings are literally 2,300 evenings and mornings which is 6 years and 118 days according to the Hebrew lunar calendar. In v. 13, Daniel asks, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?” The 2,300 evenings and mornings was the answer to Daniel’s question of how much time will transpire when all the following have come to pass:
1) the daily sacrifice will be abolished and reinstituted,
2) the sanctuary will be handed over to the horn,
3) the host of Jews will be trampled upon and
4) the rebellion that causes desolation will occur.
According to 1 Maccabees 4:52-54 and 1 Maccabees 1:59, the first sacrifice to the LORD was offered on the 25th day of Chis’lev in 164 B.C.–exactly three years to the day when the Gentiles offered the first sacrifice to Zeus on the old altar. According to 1Maccabees 1:20-24, the sanctuary was handed over to the horn, Antiochus Epiphanies, in 169 B.C when the Greek king plundered the Temple. The rebellion that causes desolation is mentioned in 2 Maccabees 5:5-14. Thinking that Antiochus Epiphanies was dead, Jason gathered a small army and overthrew Menelaus in 170 B.C. When Antiochus heard of this, he assumed that Judea had rebelled against him. This rebellion or perceived rebellion is “the rebellion that causes desolation” because this revolt was the historical reason that Antiochus attacked Judea, plundered the Temple and put an end to the daily sacrifice to the Lord as predicted in Danie1 8:13. Therefore, the total time in which all the events described in v. 13 had transpired was roughly six years from “the rebellion that causes desolation” in 170 B.C. to the reinstitution of the daily sacrifice in 164 B.C. Perhaps it was exactly 2,300 days or 6 years and 118 days between Jason’s revolt and the reinstitution of the daily sacrifice to the Lord?
15While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.” 17As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.” 18While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet. 19 He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end.
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Daniel 8:17-19: The Reference to “the Time of the End” in vs. 17 and 19 does Not Refer to the End of the Old Covenant Age. Rather, this Expression Mirrors the Way in Which the “End” is Used in Ezekiel 7:2-6; 21:25-29 to Refer to Judah’s Sixth Century War with Babylon and the Conquest of Israel by Assyria in Amos 8:2-10.
In vs. 17 and 19 Gabriel tells Daniel that this vision which was ultimately fulfilled in the second century B.C. “concerns the time of the end.” The fact that this vision which was fulfilled in the Maccabean Wars of the second century B.C. is called the “time of the end” is often interpreted by modern scholars to mean that the fourth kingdom of Daniel’s vision is Greece, not Rome. However, when the Bible refers to the “end” or “the time of the end” this expression does not always point to the end of the old covenant age. For example, Judah’s war with Babylon in the sixth century B.C. is referred to as the “end” in Ezekiel 7:2-6 and Ezekiel 21:25-29. Similarly, Assyria’s conquest of the northern kingdom is also referred to as the “end” in Amos 8:2-10. When the Bible mentions “the time of the end” this expression is generally used to denote a time of war which often results in the cessation of Temple sacrifice—both of which also occurred at the end of the old covenant age when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple.
Throughout the remainder of the chapter, Daniel is told the meaning of his vision. In vs. 15-19 the angel Gabriel approached Daniel. This is what the angel said:
20The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia.
A Commentary of Daniel 8:23, Understanding Daniel 8:23: The Two Horns are the Kings of the Medes and Persians.
The two horns of the ram symbolize the alliance of the Medes and Persians. Though Media started out as the stronger half, Persia later grew more powerful. Thus the horn in v. 3 that started out smaller but grew to be larger than the other represents Persia. Interestingly, the symbol of Persia was the ram. The king of Persia was even crowned with a ram’s head of gold. In v. 4 the ram in Daniel’s vision charged to the west, to the north and to the south. Coming from the east, Persia mimicked the actions of the ram in Daniel’s vision conquering Babylon, Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor to the west; Colchis, Armenia and Iberia to the north; and Palestine, Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia to the south.9
21The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king.
Daniel 8:23 Commentary—Understanding Daniel 8:23: The Large Horn is Alexander the Great.
As stated above, horns are often used in the Bible to symbolize kings. The large horn of this verse is Alexander the Great, the king and general whose military genius was responsible for the defeat of Persia and the vast extent of the Greek Empire.
22The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.
Daniel 8:23 Commentary—Understanding Daniel 8:23: The Four Horns are Four Generals that ruled the Four Partitions of the Greek Empire.
After Alexander’s death, the Greek Empire was divided-up among his four generals. As stated in v. 21, horns represent kings. The four horns in v. 22 are the four kings that ruled the four parts of Alexander the Great’s empire.
23“In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. 25He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
Daniel 8:23 Commentary—Understanding Daniel 8:23: The Stern-Faced King is Antiochus Epiphanes.
Out of one of the four divisions of Alexander the Great’s empire, an infamous king arose. This man was Antiochus Epiphanes. Upon claiming the Seleucid throne, Antiochus compelled his subjects to worship the Greek god Zeus. The Greek king then sent a large army to Jerusalem in order to enforce his will. And as a result, the Greeks put an end to Temple sacrifices for just over three years before the reconsecration of the Temple by a rebel Israelite army in 164 B.C. That year Antiochus Epiphanes died of illness or accident. “Destroyed but not by human power,” he died in Tabae in Persia.
26“The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”
“Hyper Preterism” and Daniel 8:26 Commentary—Understanding Daniel 8:26: In this Verse, “the distant future” is approximately 400 Years. In Revelation 22:12, Christ promised to come soon.
Between the purported time of Daniel’s vision and the death of Antiochus Epiphanes there were approximately three hundred and eighty-seven years.10 According to the angel in Daniel’s vision, three hundred and eighty-seven years is considered “the distant future.” In Revelation 22:12, Christ promised that He would be “coming soon.” If “soon” means two thousand years and counting, then there would seem to be a contradiction between these two verses. But Jesus was true to His promise having returned almost immediately after Revelation’s composition. See Historical Evidence that Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century.11
It would be approximately seven or eight years before Daniel’s next vision. During the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, Daniel is again visited by the angel Gabriel. At this time Daniel is given what may be one of his most compelling prophecies. In the next chapter, Daniel accurately predicts the exact year in which the Messiah was be killed—around six hundred years before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.12
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
Daniel 8 Commentary—Understanding Daniel 8: Conclusion
In the above preterist, covenant eschatology, A.D. 70 doctrine, fulfilled eschatology, realized eschatology commentary on Daniel 9:24-27, the prophecies in this chapter are shown to have been fulfilled during the Greek Empire giving readers a deeper understanding of Daniel 8.
- John Phillips, Exploring the Book of Daniel, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004), 140.
- 1 Maccabees 1:41-46.
- Ibid., 1:59.
- In the lunar calendar, approximately every three years a leap month of thirty days is added to prevent seasonal overlap. Thus three lunar years is (354X3) + 30 = 1092 days.
- 1,150-1,092 = 58days and 1,150-1,080 = 70days.
- According to 2 Maccabees 6:1, it was “not long after” the Greek conquest of Jerusalem that Antiochus ordered the cessation of the daily sacrifice.
- In The Wars of the Jews 5.9.4, Josephus declares that the sanctuary remained desolate for three years and six months. Though this may be true, Josephus’ testimony may be incorrect. Because Josephus did not live in the second century, it is quite possible that he fabricated this time period in order to make it fit a misunderstanding of Daniel 12:11-12.
- John Phillips, Exploring the Book of Daniel, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004), 131-132.
- In Daniel 8:1, Daniel claims to have received his vision in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar which was approximately 551 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes died in 164 B.C.
- I believe the Book of Revelation was written during, or just before, the Neronic persecution in A.D. 64. Jesus had appeared at the head of a heavenly army in the sky over Jerusalem in A.D. 66, approximately two years later. See Revelation 19: A Preterist Commentary.
- Daniel 9 purports itself to have been written during the Babylonian captivity of the sixth century B.C. However, modern scholars fallaciously date the Book of Daniel to the second century B.C. This date has a myriad of problems. For a compelling rebuttal of the second century date of composition for the Book of Daniel see Daniel Chapter 11:35-45 Commentary: Every Prophecy Miraculously Fulfilled!