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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 8

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-27

Daniel 8:2 . At Shushan in the palace. Some think that Daniel was now ambassador at the Persian court. The Ulai or Eulæus, is a great and navigable river which watered Ecbatana, capital of Media, and then, after a course of two hundred and fifty miles, washed Shushan, or the lily, so called from the beauty of the country. Daniel’s residence here may farther account for Belshazzar’s imperfect knowledge of him. But was not Shushan at this time subject to Babylon; and Persepolis capital of the Persian kingdom? Daniel was here in office on the king’s business, as in Daniel 8:26.

Daniel 8:3 . A ram which had two horns. Spanheim, a very learned protestant divine of Geneva, a friend of archbishop Usher’s, has observed, that keren signifies horn, crown, power, and splendour. He quotes Grotius also to say, that the horn is everywhere put for a kingdom, or for kings, in the old testament. He took the idea from the Chaldaic paraphrase which reads, kingdom. A ram, we are told, was the ensign of Persia; and a ram, says Sir John Chardin, was placed on the pillars of Persepolis with two horns, the one higher than the other. We find also that the prophetic style generally employs the ensigns and emblems used by the nations of which it speaks. But our enlightened Joseph Mede conjectures that if the letter gnain be sounded as aleph, Allam for Elam, it gives the ancient name of Persia. Isaiah 21:2. It sounds like aries, or ram, and is derived from the same root.

Daniel 8:4 . I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward. This ram with two unequal horns designates the unequal kingdoms of Persia and ELamentations The fall of Babylon, and the march of Cyrus from Ecbatana to Lidya, has already been noticed in Isaiah 13:14., and Ezra 1:0. Afterwards the kings of Persia became masters of all western Asia, Egypt, and the isles of Greece; and their wars were coëval with their power.

Daniel 8:5-6 . Behold, a he-goat came from the west. Alexander the great, in full career of conquest, came to the Persian ram, standing by the river Granicus, and smote him in three successive battles, and finally pursued him to the city of Arbela in Palestine. After that, the hero met with little obstruction till he had planted his standard on the walls of Babylon. It is calculated that six hundred thousand Persians fell in those wars, fighting against little more than thirty thousand Greeks.

Daniel 8:8 . When he was strong the great horn was broken. Alexander died on the consummation of his conquests at Babylon, either by poison or by the visitation of God. Afterwards came up four notable ones, the horns of the four kingdoms into which the Greek empire was divided on his death, as stated in Daniel 6:6.

Daniel 8:13 . How long shall be the vision. How long shall the sanctuary and the host be trodden underfoot? Host, or the army, as Montanus reads. Both here and at Daniel 8:9, it is rendered dynasty, by Theodotian; that is, the supreme government. The Vulgate reads, fortitude; but the English, following Munster, read pleasant land. Hence this little horn was to tread down the sanctuary, and the government, or power, or land of Israel, for the space of the days mentioned in the next verse.

Daniel 8:14 . Unto two thousand and three hundred days, or till evening and morning days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. The Vatican, the Alexandrine, the Complute, and Aldus’s copy of the Greek, read two thousand three hundred days; but Theodotian reads two thousand four hundred. In the Hebrew, as the very learned Joseph Scaliger remarks, the points are neglected in Montanus, who reads, elphim one thousand, instead of alphagim two thousand. All antiquity is against Montanus’s reading as erroneous. Jerome reads, two thousand three hundred; but he mentions some copies which read two thousand two hundred days. Perhaps there was a providence in these variations of the reading to hide from us the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary, and the holy land. This little horn was applied by many of the ancients to Antiochus king of Syria, called Epiphanes, who took Jerusalem, profaned the temple, put forty thousand, or some say, eighty thousand jews to the sword, and made forty thousand of them slaves. This monster of cruelty and lasciviousness set up the image of Jupiter Olympus in the Lord’s house, and forced the jews by all kinds of tortures to live as the gentiles, and to sacrifice to the idols. Hence the Greeks ceased to call him Epiphanes, which signifies illustrious, and called him Epimanes; that is, furious, or mad.

This man, having run his course, was, as is usual, infatuated to destruction. He heard of the treasures in the temple of Diana at Elymais in Persia, and thought to make himself master of them; but his army was defeated. On his return he heard of the defeat of his generals by Mattathias and his sons, the Maccabees. So excessive was his grief that he died on the road, in all the horrors which can possibly seize a guilty mind. Thus Judas Maccabeus purified the temple, and restored the principality till the time of Herod the Ascalonite. The end of this unhappy man may teach civil governments not to meddle with religion. Bishop Newton has proved by many arguments, and decisive ones indeed, that though Josephus, and many jews and christians assert Antiochus to be the little horn, that Jerome is right in supposing him to be merely a type of antichrist; for he did not in any sense oppress the jews two thousand three hundred days, and he fought by his own power as king of Syria; but the kings of the earth were to give their power and strength to antichrist or the beast. Revelation 17:13.

This little horn magnified himself against the prince of the host. Now, Antiochus only profaned the temple, and twice sold the high priesthood; but the Romans utterly destroyed the temple, and under Adrian sought to annihilate the jews, after having aided in the crucifixion of the Lord Christ. Besides, it is said, Daniel 7:26, “they shall take away his dominion, to consume, and to destroy it unto the end.” Though therefore the affairs of Antiochus came to a gloomy close, yet his crown passed to his heirs; nor was it removed till the Romans fully took possession of the country by force of arms; but the antichrist was to be broken without hands: Daniel 8:25. Hence the great body of protestants do most seriously regard the papal hierarchy, which sprang as a horn out of the Roman power, as the antichrist, or the armillium improbum, the wicked one who was so revealed, sitting in the temple of God, and speaking as though he was a god. See notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The papal hierarchy of dignified clergymen have magnified themselves above all, and impiously taken both heaven and earth into their own hands.

Daniel 8:16 . Gabriel, that is, the great power of God, make this man to understand the vision. See on Luke 1:19.

Daniel 8:26 . Shut up the vision, for it shall be for many days. These words, many days, refer to our own times, to which the two thousand three hundred or two thousand four hundred days or years refer. Therefore the vision must be shut up in the bosom of the church, as a reserve of consolation in the latter day. God has begun already his great work of cleansing the sanctuary. Luther removed idols from the protestant world, and the keen satires of an infidel philosophy are chasing them, with a cloud of superstitions, from the papists. The bible is obtaining its rank as the light of the world, and christian powers are suppressing simony in the sanctuary, that the church may be filled with holy men. This subject is resumed in another vision, chapter the twelfth.


When God has any great work to do in the earth, he takes peculiar delight in calling his friends to attest his providence and grace. The measure of Babylon was full; yea, the wickedness overflowed, and God was about to give the world into the hands of other lords. Hence that certain Saint, that Holy One, for whom no name that mortals can give is worthy, awaited Daniel in devotion and solitude, to show him in miniature a grand scheme of providence to the end of the ages of wickedness. He who said, shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do, still delights to interest the attention of the church, that man may be happy in the contemplation of his glorious works. He enshrouded the soul of the venerable prophet with the skirts of his glory, that wrapped in the spirit, he might glance on futurity in the light of the Lord. While Belshazzar, giddy with a crown, and intoxicated with pride, wantoned in crimes and in the nightly opiates of pleasure, not aware of the gathering stolen, Daniel saw the young Cyrus as a ram uniting on his head the two horns of Persia and Media. He pushed westward, and arranged the Armenians in close alliance, and was accompanied by Tygranes and twenty four thousand men to the war. He pushed northward towards the Black sea, and thence southward to Sardis, where he found all the treasures which Crœsus had hoarded, as on purpose to accelerate the fall of Babylon.

Next, Daniel saw the he-goat, or Alexander the great, come from Greece, skipping, running, and leaping against the descendants of the ram, after the Persian empire had flourished about two hundred and twenty eight years. This furious goat smote the ram, and brake his two horns, and cast him to the ground.

Next, not in Alexander’s time, but out of the western part of his empire, sprung up the little horn at Rome, a weak kingdom at first, but afterwards it became lord of the world. Likewise, out of the same Rome, arose the more dangerous horn of the spiritual antichrist, or empire within the ten kingdoms of Europe. Both these powers have magnified themselves against the prince of the host; and temporal Rome has magnified itself against the pleasant land, and the people of the Most High, whose country remains a desolation to the present day. We may lastly observe, that the study of the visions and prophecies concerning the empires of the earth and the kingdom of Christ, are of the greatest advantage and benefit to the church. They show us the care of providence. God’s perfect foresight and knowledge of his own affairs, and the confidence which the faithful may repose in his providence and grace. Why then should we be terrified at war and political tempests. God rides on the storm, and holds the winds in his fist; he is doing his great work; he is causing the wicked to punish one another, to purify his church, and to protect the faithful. Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Hence also the study of prophecy is often of peculiar advantage to the church. The venerable Daniel, who kept his house during the carnage in Babylon, lived to show Cyrus the prophecies of Isaiah respecting himself, where he was mentioned by name, and to procure the emancipation of the jews with great presents. Isaiah 44, 45. In like manner, Jaddua, highpriest of Jerusalem, met Alexander coming against the city; but on showing this prophecy of the he-goat, he pacified his anger, and obtained the mildest treatment for the jews.

Lastly, our Saviour’s resumption of this prophecy, saved the christians from perishing in Jerusalem. He had warned his disciples, when they saw the abomination which maketh desolate standing in the holy place; not the temple only, but the pleasant land, as in Daniel 8:9; and the same word is translated elsewhere a goodly heritage, a goodly portion; he had warned them, I say, that they should flee to the mountains. May we therefore wait in confidence for the cleansing of the sanctuary, and not be too presuming on prophetic calculations. In due time the Lord will fill the whole earth with his glory, and put all his enemies under his feet.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 8". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/daniel-8.html. 1835.
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