Dan 8:1-14. THE VISION OF THE RAM AND THE GOAT WARS:
The Great ram goes to war with the Goat.
Daniel chapter eight is one of the most important Bible prophecy passages that we can study. In this chapter, we learn important details about the end of the age in which we currently live.
When Daniel was first shown the vision he knew how significant it was. It made him sick to his stomach when he began to realize what God had shown him.
The Ram and Goat Vision
Daniel saw a vision of a ram and a goat engaging in a fierce battle. The vision was built upon several important truths that had begun for the prophet many years prior. He was older now and God was starting to bring older dreams into clearer focus.
First the Dreams than the visions
When King Nebuchadnezzar had troubling dreams, we read about those in chapters two and four, Daniel began to interpret them. They were focused on events affecting the Nation of Israel. God had allowed the Jews to be taken into captivity in Babylon. The dreams of the king began with the Babylonian captivity and stretched centuries into the future. Israel would be under the rule of four successive empires over the course of those centuries.
An important distinction of this dream was that the end of the fourth kingdom would immediately lead to the peaceful reign of Jesus. So whatever that fourth kingdom was, we know that the reign of Jesus would follow it. We’re still waiting.
The Goat kingdom gives important clues
Timing is the unknown aspect–first of the dreams and then the visions. When would they take place? What would be the sign of their fulfillment? We learn some important facts in this chapter. We start to see more clearly how some of the puzzle pieces fit.
Important for us today
Another component of this vision is crucial for our understanding today. Daniel saw into the future; very far into the future. As we look at the words of his vision we realize he probably was looking at our present day and age. The final conflicts he saw between Israel and their enemies will likely occur just a few years into our own future. He saw these dreams and visions about 2500 years ago. It appears that the time of the fulfillment of his visions could be very close now.
As we look at this chapter, decide for yourself if you think the prophet was seeing the nations, wars, and final destruction that is possibly only a few short years into our future.
He also saw the final cruel leader of nations known as the Antichrist.
Let’s take a look at one of the most important passages of Bible prophecy.
8:1 Daniel’s vision
“In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar, a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.”
Daniel began his prophecy career interpreting the dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar. Now, later in life and serving another king, the visions were coming directly to him. This vision in chapter eight builds upon an important vision he saw in chapter seven. That is what he refers to when he says…after that. . . at the first— Dan 7:1. In that vision, he saw an end-of-days scenario in which Israel is confronted by a cruel leader of nations. The prophet saw God’s throne, the Heavenly Father, and Jesus, His Son in their position of authority. They will oversee the development of the final cruel days. Nothing will slip out of their control even though it will reach a point of seeming finality in which hope is cast aside for all who live upon the earth.
8:2 In the palace by the river
“And I saw in a vision, and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam, and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.”
Daniel was taken in spirit, but not physically present, to a place which was not very important at the time. But later it would be. Shushan was the location where the future palace of the Medo-Persian Empire would be built.
The future king of that empire, Cyrus, would reign from that location. Daniel, in spirit, is transported there, the future capital of the kingdom he saw in his vision. He first saw the two-horned ram ( Neh 1:1 Est 1:2-5 ).
8:3 The Ram with two horns
“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.”
As this vision develops let’s keep something in mind. The vision is destined for a future fulfillment. That fulfillment begins when the Medo-Persian Empire started to come into power. The final fulfillment will not take place until 6,000 years of human history have unfolded. At the end of this chapter, Daniel is told the end of the vision will be at the end of days. There is nothing in this chapter that refers to a 6,000-year timeline, that’s my editorial comment, but it is very clear that the vision starts with Medo-Persia and ends with a final empire ruled by the Antichrist. The Antichrist kingdom will be defeated by Jesus. He will rule in peace for a thousand years after that.
Horns of Power
Horns, in this passage and throughout the Bible refers to governmental power. This governmental rule had two bases of power. The Medes and the Persians were the two horns. One of the horns was more powerful than the other but they shared their authority. It is my strong conviction that this prophecy looks ahead to our current day. Daniel from where he stood, in vision, in the province of Elam, saw the rise of the Medes and Persians. He also saw an end of days rise of two nations which would be united in power based in the same geographic location. I interpret that future power to be none other than Iran and Iraq. They are currently united and building their military strength, and reaching out exactly as Daniel predicted a final days power would do. Iran is the higher, more powerful horn. Iraq the weaker.
The “one horn higher than the other” compares favorably to the passage that refers to a bear “raising itself on one side” ( see Dan. 7:5).
8:4 The Great Ram goes to war
“I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.”
Daniel sees the direction of conquest the empire will move. The Empire comes from the East and moves from there in all directions. The map to the right shows how far the Medo-Persian Empire reached during its apex of power. Daniel saw all this, many years before, when the Babylonian Empire still ruled over the Middle East.
The ram pushed westward—
Persia conquered Babylon, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Asia Minor to the west.
Then pushed northward—
They went north into Armenia and the regions on both sides of the Caspian Sea.
From there they went southward—
After they pushed west and north from there they pushed south into Judea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya. He does not say eastward, though they did push into India because from Daniel’s perspective his concern was Israel.
The power of the Medo-Persian Empire was unmatched by any other nation during this time. Today, another pair of nations are making a similar push through these same regions. The nation of Iran, the higher power that shares military might with Iraq is pushing west, north, and south. This chapter tells us what might come next in their push for power in the Middle East.
8:5 The Goat brings a Challenge
“And as I was considering, behold, a he-goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.”
Daniel saw in his vision the rise of a greater power that would eventually stop the Medo-Persian Empire. Historically this nation that rose to power came from the region of Greece. Remember where Daniel was standing while he sees this vision. He is standing at the center of power of the Medo-Persian Empire. He looks to the west and sees a fast-moving army approaching. This new power approaches from the region known as Asia-Minor. Today, this geographic region is where the nation of Turkey sits. The army, the prophet sees, crosses from Europe into the Middle East to confront the Ram.
If this prophecy is a prediction of events that will occur in the current Middle East, we might expect to see Turkey eventually confront Iran. Is this possible? Yes, I believe it is very likely to happen. But as is the case for many of these things we still have some years to go before we should expect it to happen.
The Ram and Goat wars are about to begin.
This new challenge, the goat in Daniel’s vision, had a notable horn. History records these wars very accurately. This passage is one of several that makes the book of Daniel so remarkable. Historians wonder how Daniel could have known some of these details about wars and clashing empires that took place long after the prophet died.
The answer is simple. He had help from God who sees the future before it happens. Daniel saw the future of the impressive young military leader we know today as Alexander the Great.
Alexander’s army surged into the Middle East and barely slowed down when met by the forces of the Medo-Persian Empire. Please take note of the map of both empires. They are very similar in the regions they conquered. What is essential to our understanding of Bible prophecy is that they both conquered Israel. As did Babylon before them and so also will the final Antichrist kingdom.
The future king
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”
To the Medo-Persian’s and Alexander the Great, the small Jewish nation was insignificant, but not to God or the prophet Daniel. Bible prophecy starts with Israel and projects out from there. The plan of God is centered in that tiny rebellious group of people. From that nation, the Messiah, Jesus, would arise and provide salvation for all of humanity. Therefore, everything rested on the future of those insignificant Jews who were captives in Babylon at the time of this vision.
8:6 The Goat Against the Ram
“And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.”
It was at the “river” Granicus that Alexander fought his first victorious battle against Darius, in 334 B.C. The might of Medo-Persia was still very impressive but the tactics of the young general who would rule the world were far superior to those who fought with those slow-moving war- elephants.
I’m reminded of a fictional character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Elf warrior ‘Legolas’ single-handedly brought down war-elephants in battle. He was swift and effective in battle and didn’t fear the powerful elephants. It was the same when Alexander’s armies came swiftly into conflict with the Persians. The Ram with the two horns couldn’t stop the fast-moving armies of Alexander. The Goat quickly prevailed against the ram.
8:7 The Ram is broken
“And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.”
The swift march of the Goat
The goat could not be stopped. It wasn’t even a fair fight. The goat army, led by Alexander, was much smaller but swift and lethal as it marched across the Middle East. It sliced through the powerful Persian forces like the proverbial “knife through butter.”
The two horns of the ram were defeated by Alexander who represented the ‘notable horn’ of the goat in Daniel’s vision.
8:8 The Goat rises and falls
“Therefore the he-goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.”
The swift rise of Alexander’s Empire led to an equally sudden fall.
The empire was still at full strength when Alexander died of a fever at Babylon. The leadership quickly crumbled after his death to fulfill the prophet’s words. The great horn was “broken.” His natural brother, Philip Aridoeus, and his two sons, Alexander and Hercules, were murdered, so the power of Alexander was then spread in four directions. That fits the description of Daniel’s prophecy. Again, historians have asked how could he possibly have known. He didn’t–God did.
Four notable horns took Alexander’s place
Seleucus ruled in the east, (Syria, Babylonia, and Media)
Cassander took power in the west, (Macedon and Thessaly, of Greece)
PTOLEMY became the notable horn in the south, (Egypt, Cyprus, and Lybia)
Lysimachus held power in the north, (Thrace, Cappadocia, and the northern parts of Asia Minor)
8:9 The Little Horn
“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 pleasant land.”
From the goat comes the little horn.
At this point, the prophecy introduces an important figure. The verse mentions a “little horn.” This is a very important Bible prophecy topic. The little horn occurs twice in history. The first “little horn,” is the historical leader Antiochus Epiphanes. He is a ‘type’ of the future Antichrist figure. The actions of Antiochus mimic the actions of the future leader commonly referred to as the Antichrist. The second “little horn” will follow the steps of the first in the way he defiled the Jewish temple and called for the Jews to worship him as a god.
Antiochus is the first little horn.
Antiochus had an extraordinary love of art, which he expressed in buildings and grand temples. He saw himself as a god like that of Zeus of Olympus. When he ruled over the “pleasant land,” which is Israel, he decided to place a statue of Zeus inside the Jewish temple to replace the worship of Jehovah at Jerusalem.
Antichrist is the final little horn.
That statue of Zeus in the old temple is probably very similar to something the final “little horn” will do once he takes his position of power. This is significant for us today. I believe Bible prophecy students should expect the rebuilding of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The animal sacrifices will return to a regular practice in Israel. The Antichrist will not be revealed before the temple and the sacrifices are restored. As Antiochus did before him, the Antichrist will have something placed inside the temple and call for people to worship him.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 tells us about the Antichrist.
3Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
The second and last little horn will take his seat in the temple and proclaim himself to be a god.
8:10 The Antichrist revealed
“And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.”
Here it becomes abundantly clear that this is no mere man reigning over an empire. This entity is able to reach up to the “host of heaven.” When the word ‘host’ is used here it is best seen as a reference to the armies of heaven. It means the angels of God. Satan is that entity that was able to take down some of the angels of God. He led a rebellion that took a third of the angels from their position as servants of God. The Lord cast the rebellious angels down to earth. Most are currently in chains awaiting judgment while others are still free to roam and cause havoc on humanity. This is all a part of God’s plan. Satan is the angelic being who led that first rebellion and will lead the final one. He will inhabit the body of the man who will come to be known as the Antichrist. He is the little horn that Daniel saw about 2500 years ago.
cast. . . stars to the ground—
Babylon, as a type of Antichrist, as described in the following passage. ( Isa 14:13, 14 ), Satan proclaims; “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.” Compare Rev 12:4; 2 Maccabees 9:10, with the history of Antiochus who was the model of the final Antichrist figure.
8:11 The daily sacrifices stopped
“Yes, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him, the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.”
Remember the context of Daniel’s prophecy. He was in Babylon. The Jewish people were captive, Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins. God showed him a future temple and two future leaders who would defile the temple of God. Only one such leader has fulfilled his role as a defiler of the temple. One still awaits his eventual revelation. He can’t be revealed until the next temple is rebuilt.
The prince of the host or the leader of the armies of heaven is Jesus. The same figure is the one who met Joshua before he went into battle to take the land of Canaan after the death of Moses.
The last temple will be defiled by the Antichrist. He will stop the daily animal sacrifices. This leads us to two obvious conclusions which I have already stated. There must be a temple and there must be animal sacrifices in Israel before this happens. Jesus cannot return before that. Those expecting any other timeline must adjust to what the scriptures say. This isn’t my opinion. Daniel was shown this. The angel tells him at the end of this chapter that what he saw in his vision was concerning the time of the end.
8:12 The Antichrist army
“And a host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground, and it practiced, and prospered.”
A host was given him. The host refers to an army. Just as the host of heaven refers to the army of angels, this host of the “little horn,” is an army which he uses to force his will upon the Jewish people. This is an important action in the last days of Satan’s rule. This is what he has been trying to accomplish for 6,000 years. He stops the worship of the True God in the temple and demands that the Jews and others worship him. Satan will “cast down the truth,” and demand they believe a lie. He will demand that they worship him as a god.
8:13 How long is the Antichrist’s reign
“Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spoke, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?”
Two ‘saints’ are heard speaking to one another. The identities of these saints is a mystery. They weren’t angels and they obviously weren’t members of the church. The church started in the days of Pentecost. I suspect, and this is a wild guess on my part, that these saints were members of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament.
Whoever they are, they insert themselves into the vision of Daniel and provide important insight. They ask one another about the length of time for the temple desecration and the stopping of the daily sacrifices. This could be an important clue regarding the final seven years of the tribulation.
This passage and several others in the Book of Daniel puzzled the great scientist, Sir Isaac Newton. Many are familiar with Newton’s scientific studies and theories. Most though would never guess that the great scientist who famously developed the mathematical theory of gravity was extremely fascinated with the timing of Jesus’ return. Bible prophecy was a life-long passion of his. This passage, to him, presented a probable timeline that pinpointed the return of Jesus. Using this passage, he predicted Jesus would return in the year 2060.
Smarter than Isaac
I think I’m smarter than Mr. Newton so I’ll say boldly, he was wrong. 🙂
Despite what Isaac may have guessed, incorrectly or not, we do know something regarding Daniel’s vision. This passage gave a timing indicator regarding the daily sacrifice and the desolation of the temple. The ‘saints’ in this verse were asking about how long the desolation would be. The answer to the question that Isaac Newton struggled with was when to start the timeline. It is that answer in particular that I believe Newton was wrong about.
8:14 2300 days the temple is defiled
“And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”
This is the timeline the famous scientist and many others like him struggled with. What is meant by 2300 days? Was it years, or months, or Jubilees, or what? The answer is not known, but I believe the answer is simpler than many have made it. It’s always better to choose the simplest answer when debating Biblical questions. The simplest answer is usually closer to the truth. When the prophet heard 2300 days, the simple answer would suggest 2300 days, not years or any other complicated equation. Newton assumed it meant years so he tried to figure out when he should start his countdown to the return of Jesus. I believe he assumed wrong.
There is no doubt that many questions remain regarding Bible prophecy questions. The length of the tribulation is one of those troubling, unanswered questions. To me it is simple. The tribulation period will be 360 days times seven. That’s seven years measured with a 360 day year.
But how long is that?
This 2300 day timeline possibly gives us some room to guess about when the animal sacrifices get stopped and how long the rule of the Antichrist lasts.
2300 days is about six years and a few months. These 2300 days is the duration of the desolation of the temple. It also might be how long the animal sacrifices are stopped. This could mean the sacrifices begin for a few months and then the Antichrist stops them. For all of those 2300 days, the armies of the Antichrist are said to “trod over the temple area.”
When that time ends the cleansing of the temple will begin.
To be continued…
I will continue this important discussion in the next post.