Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Daniel 8

Verses 1-27

Daniel 8. The Vision of the Ram and the He-goat.—This chapter gives an account of another vision which came to Daniel in Shushan. Near the river Ulai a ram with two horns is seen pushing invincibly westward and northward and southward. Suddenly from the W. a he-goat appears, attacks the ram, and breaks his horns. Then, the he-goat "magnified himself exceedingly." The "notable horn" between his eyes is broken and four other horns spring up to take its place. Out of these four horns proceeded another, a little horn, which moved towards the E. and the S. and attacked the land of Palestine, exalting itself against God, desecrating the Temple, and abolishing the sacrifices for 2300 days.

The interpretation of the vision which is given by Gabriel to Daniel is exceptionally clear, and leaves no manner of doubt that it refers to the events of the Maccabean age. The ram with the two horns represents the two kingdoms of Media and Persia. The he-goat is the Greek Empire, the first horn representing Alexander the Great, and the four later horns the four kingdoms into which the empire subsequently split up. The little horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, "a king of fierce countenance and understanding dark sentences." The attack on the Jewish religion is clearly described, and the promise given that God will deliver His people.

Daniel 8:1. Belshazzar: Daniel 5:1*.—at the first: refers to the vision of the four beasts in Daniel 7, which is dated two years previously.

Daniel 8:2. Shushan the palace: the citadel of Susa (Nehemiah 1:1, Esther 1:2; Esther 1:5). Susa was the capital of Elam, and was situated on the river Eulæus, directly N. of the head of the Persian Gulf. It is described by Xenophon as the "winter residence of the Persian kings." Its citadel was renowned for its strength. As the city was destroyed in the reign of Assurbanipal (668-626 B.C.) and not restored till the time of Darius Hystaspis (521-485 B.C.) there is some doubt as to whether the citadel was in existence at the date implied by this chapter.—Elam: the province or district E. of the lower Tigris and N. of the Persian Gulf (Jeremiah 49:34-39*).—Ulai: Eulæus (modern Karûn), one of the three rivers which flows into the Persian Gulf from the mountains on the N. Driver, however, thinks it was probably a large artificial canal connecting two of these rivers.

Daniel 8:3. the ram: a symbol of power and energy (Ezekiel 39:18). Of the two horns the lower represents the Median Empire, the higher which "came up last" the Persian.

Daniel 8:5. he-goaf: used metaphorically to describe a ruler or leader (Isaiah 14:9 (mg.), Isaiah 34:6; Ezekiel 39:18), representing here the Greek Empire.—over the face: an exaggerated but pointed description of Alexander's conquests.—touched not the ground: such was the speed of the he-goat that he seemed to be flying without touching the ground, a reference to the rapidity of Alexander's triumphant progress.—notable horn: Alexander the Great.

Daniel 8:7 describes the downfall of the Persian Empire before Alexander.

Daniel 8:8. great horn was broken: refers to Alexander's tragic death at the summit of his power in 323 B.C.—four notable horns: i.e. the four kingdoms into which the Greek Empire was divided: (a) Egypt, (b) Asia Minor, (c) Syria and Babylonia, (d) Macedonia and Greece (cf. Daniel 11:4).

Daniel 8:9. a little horn: Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.) whose oppression caused the Maccabean rising.—glorious land: Palestine (cf. Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:41).

Daniel 8:10. the host of heaven: the stars. This attack on the heavenly bodies is a symbolical way of describing Antiochus' attempt to destroy the Jewish religion.

Daniel 8:11. the prince of the host: i.e. God.—burnt offering: refers to Antiochus' desecration of the Temple and the suppression of the sacrifices.

Daniel 8:12. and the host was given: the meaning of this clause is very uncertain. Driver renders, "A host was appointed against the continual burnt offering with transgression," and explains it thus: "Antiochus had recourse to violence and set up an armed garrison to suppress the sacred rites of the Jews." RV means, "A host (i.e. an army of Israelites) was given over to it (the horn, i.e. Antiochus) together with the burnt offering through transgression" (i.e. the apostasy of the disloyal Jews).

Daniel 8:14. two thousand three hundred: 1150 days. The desecration of the altar lasted from the 15th of Chislew 168 B.C. to the 25th of Chislew 165 B.C., or 3 years and 10 days. The number of days reckoned in a Jewish year at this time is uncertain, but the range of possibilities for this period lies between 1090 and 1132 days, and in any case the number falls short of the prophesied 1150. Some scholars think that the 1150 days is reckoned not from the actual destruction of the altar, but from the date of the edict of Antiochus. Others hold that the Book was written within this period, and that the 1150 days or 3 years was, therefore, a genuine prediction, which was only approximately fulfilled.

Daniel 8:17. the vision belongeth to the end: to the writer the events of the Maccabean rising were to be followed by the end of the world.

Daniel 8:19. in the latter time of the indignation: when the wrath of God shall be manifest at the end of time.

Daniel 8:20-22. Daniel 8:3-9*.

Daniel 8:23. understanding dark sentences: "a master of dissimulation, able to conceal his meaning under ambiguous words" (Driver).

Daniel 8:24. not by his own power: i.e. either (a) by the permission of God, or (b) by his intrigues.

Daniel 8:25. broken without hand: by act of God.

Daniel 8:26. shut up the vision: keep it secret.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Daniel 8". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.