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Vision of the ram and the goat (8:1-14)
This vision is easier to understand than that of the previous chapter (which was given to Daniel two years earlier; cf. 7:1; 8:1). This is partly because of the interpretation given to Daniel, and partly because of ancient records that show a remarkable correspondence between details of the vision and events as they actually happened.
It was now almost 550 BC, and though Babylon was still the dominant power in the region, Persia had now begun to challenge it. The significant event of 550 BC was Persia’s conquest of the formerly great kingdom of Media. Then, in 539 BC, the combined armies of Persia and Media conquered Babylon. This combined Medo-Persian power was pictured in the vision as a ram, one of whose horns (Persia) was higher than the other (Media) (8:1-4; see also v. 20).
Persia ruled till about 333 BC, when Alexander the Great came from the west and with unbelievable speed overran the Persian Empire. His Greek Empire was symbolized in Daniel’s vision as a goat, with Alexander as the large horn between the goat’s eyes. But at the height of his power, when only thirty-two years of age, Alexander suddenly died. His empire soon split into four sectors (‘four new horns’) (5-8; see also. v. 21-22).
One of these sectors was centred on Syria. From this sector there arose, many years later, a king (‘a little horn’) who attacked God’s people and even God himself (‘the stars of heaven and the Prince of those stars’). This king, Antiochus Epiphanes, stopped the regular sacrifices that the Jews offered each morning and evening, set up Greek idols and a heathen altar in their holy temple, and forced the Jews to carry out practices that he knew their law prohibited (9-12; see also v. 23-25).
This attack on the Jewish religion lasted more than three years (1150 days, or 2300 morning and evening sacrifices). It came to an end in 165 BC, when the Jews regained control of their temple. They then cleansed and rededicated it to the holy worship of God (13-14).
Gabriel explains the vision (8:15-27)
An interpreting angel named Gabriel then set out to explain to the frightened Daniel the meaning of the vision of the ram and the goat (15-18). It was chiefly concerned with the climax of the Jews’ troubles, when God would intervene in mighty judgment against Antiochus (19). But first the Medo-Persian and Greek Empires had to be established (20-22). Cruel, cunning, arrogant and powerful, Antiochus would slaughter the Jews, defile the temple and blaspheme God. But God, in his time, would destroy him (23-25).
Gabriel revealed to Daniel that the terrifying events would not take place for some time. This, however, was small comfort, and for several days Daniel lay sick and depressed at the thought of what lay ahead for his people (26-27).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Daniel 8". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter