Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, April 24th, 2024
the Fourth Week after Easter
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Daniel 8

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical



IN relation to the prediction in Daniel 7:11, regarding the destruction by fire of the body of the Beast or fourth universal empire, that immediately preceding the kingdom of the Son of Man, and of the saints—his body being “given to the burning flame”—science has recently indicated another way in which this judgment might be inflicted on apostate Christendom and the Antichristian kingdoms. The following extract from the Spectator, in relation to a recent conclusion of astronomy, only met the writer’s eye while the preceding work was in the press:—“We sometimes doubt whether the world’s belief in science is quite as genuine as it seems. Here is Mr. Proctor, whose astronomical authority and ability nobody doubts, has told the world for some time back, we believe, that there is really a very considerable chance of a catastrophe only fifteen years hence, which may put an end to us and our earthly hopes and fears altogether; and, so far as we can see, the world has blandly treated Mr. Proctor’s warning as it would have treated an interesting speculation on the future of electricity—that is, has regarded it with a certain mild, literary satisfaction, but has not made any change in its arrangements in consequence.… Yet, supposing Mr. Proctor’s facts to be correctly stated—on which we should like to have the judgment of other astronomers—there does seem a remarkably good chance that in 1897 the sun will suddenly break out into the same kind of intensity of heat and light which caused the conflagration in the star of the Northern Crown in 1866, when for a day or two the heat and light emitted by it became suddenly many hundreds of times greater than they were before, after which the star relapsed into its former relative insignificance. Those few days of violence, however, must have been enough to destroy completely all vegetable and animal life in the planets circulating round that sun, if such planets were in existence; and Mr. Proctor shows no little reason to believe that the same catastrophe may very probably happen to us, doubtless from a precisely similar cause, if the astronomers who believe that the comet of 1880 was identical with the comet of 1843 and the comet of 1668 should be right,—which would imply that the same comet, with a rapidly diminishing period, is likely to return and fall into the sun, with all its meteoric appendages, in or about the year 1897. Mr. Proctor tells us that Professor Winnecke believes that the identity of the comets of 1843 and 1880 hardly admits of a doubt; while Mr. Marth thinks that both may be identical with the comet of 1668, its velocity having been reduced by its passing through the corona of the sun; so that on its next return, in a considerably reduced time, it may be altogether unable to pass out of the sphere of the sun’s influence, and may precipitate itself, with all its meteoric train, into the mass of the sun. If this event occurs—as at some return or other Mr. Proctor believes to be nearly certain—(the next but one, we suppose, if not the next), there will certainly be an abrupt arrest of an enormous momentum as the long train of meteors enters the sun, which arrest would show itself in the shape of enormously increased heat,—the probable result whereof would be the burning up of all vegetable and animal life existing on the planets of the solar system. It is true that Mr. Proctor is not quite sure how the absorption of this comet and its train into the sun would really affect us. He is by no means certain that our sun would burst into flame, as the star in the Northern Crown did in 1866, but he evidently thinks it much more likely than not. And he does not seriously doubt that in the behaviour of the star in the Northern Crown, which so suddenly broke into flame in 1866, we have the example of a real sidereal catastrophe which from time to time either actually destroys, or would destroy, if they existed, such worlds as ours, if they happen to be the planets of a sun thus suddenly fed with a great accession of cosmic heat.”

In connection with the same subject the writer has recently met with the following passage in Mr. Garrat’s “Midnight Cry,” written about twenty years ago:—“The fiery flood. So it is described in Peter’s second epistle. The destruction of the ungodly will be by fire; and out of that fire will issue the new heavens and the new earth. The question is often asked, whether that event will happen at the commencement or the close of the millennium. Perhaps, in different degrees, at both. Isaiah says, speaking of a period prior to the thousand years, ‘By fire and by sword will the Lord plead with all flesh, and the slain of the Lord shall be many.’ And he seems also to place the creation of new heavens and a new earth at the same period; while it is after the millennium, John says in Revelation, ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth.’ This and many other apparent difficulties of the same nature are easily explained. ‘One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ The whole millennium is, in God’s eye, but a day—the great day of the Lord God Almighty. It is the ‘regeneration,’—the period of earth’s new birth; and the events at its commencement and its close are sometimes looked upon as one. God will destroy His enemies with fire at the beginning of these thousand years. The conflagration at their close will be still more terrible. Both are looked upon as one event. And it is to both, regarded as one, that the words of Peter apply: ‘The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.’ It will come as a thief in the night on the world. They will be alone, because the Church will have been translated. With what bitter remorse will men look on the fiery deluge as it comes sweeping along! They might have escaped, and they would not; and now escape is impossible.”

Verses 1-27



This chapter presents to us another vision of Daniel vouchsafed to him in the reign of Belshazzar, but two years later than the preceding one, which is here mentioned as that which appeared to him “at the first,” or at an earlier period. See chap. Daniel 9:21, note ([215] The narrative is given in Hebrew, which is now resumed, and continues to be the language of the book to its conclusion, there being no more reference made to Chaldea, and what remains being intended only for God’s covenant people. This change in the language is a confirmation of the genuineness of the book.

[215] At the beginning” (Daniel 8:21). בַּתְּחלָּה (battekhil’lah), “at the first,” as in chap. Daniel 8:1; with the general signification, as Keil observes, of earlier, and synonymous with בָּרִאשׁנָה (barishonah), in the beginning, in Genesis 13:3; Genesis 41:21; Genesis 43:18; Genesis 43:20; Isaiah 1:26.

The vision is represented as given when Daniel was in the province of Elam, another name for Persia, at the palace or royal residence of Shushan [216] or Susa, probably so called from the lilies that abounded in the region. He relates that at the time he was on the banks of the river Ulai [217]; but whether in the body, or, as Calvin and others, with great probability, suppose, in spirit, as Ezekiel was at Jerusalem in spirit while in body he was in Chaldea, appears uncertain. The quiet banks of this Persian stream, now long unknown, might be to Daniel what lonely Patmos was to the beloved disciple, who so much resembled him, having been chosen by him as a place of retirement for prayer and communion with God after his hours of public business in Shushan. “Arise, and get thee into the plain, and there will I talk with thee.”

[216] “Shushan the palace.” Shushan or Susa, now called Sús or Shoosh by the Arabs, was the chief city of the province of Elam, called Elymais by the Greeks, and, until Darius, is thought to have been part of the Babylonian dominion. Keil, however, says we have no accurate information whether under Belshazzar Elam was or was not added to Babylon or the Chaldean empire. At the time of Darius Susa belonged to the province of Elam, which had been made a satrapy by the kings of Persia, with Susa for its capital. Dr. Rule observes that the “palace” of Susa, as is evident from the ruins, was a different building from the citadel, the הַבִּירָה (habbirah) of the text. This was a strongly fortified building, towering over the city for its terror or its defence; while the “palace,” as is known by inscriptions, was built by Darius Hystaspis or Gushtasp, who only began to reign b.c. 521, perhaps thirty-two years after this vision. He reads: “I was in Shushan, the citadel,” as the city itself is called, either from the citadel proper, or because of its own great strength, the palace being described in Esther 1:5-6, &c., and called “the house (or palace) of the king,” situated in a garden, and sumptuously furnished, as being intended for state or pleasure, but not like a citadel for strength. The ruins of Susa are now only a wilderness, and inhabited by lions and hyenas, on the eastern banks of the Shapur, between it and the Dizful, both flowing into the Kuran, probably the same as the Ulai, or, according to its Aryan or Persian name, the Choaspes. Three great mountains of ruins, from eighty to a hundred feet high, show the compass of the city, while smaller heaps point out its remains.

[217] By the river of Ulai. Mentioned on the cylinder of Assurbanipal as the river of Shushan. “Their wives, like bows and arrows, filled the vicinity of Shushan; their corpses I caused the Ulai to receive.” Jerome, as well as the Vulgate and Theodotion, translate the words, “at the gate of Ulai,” remarking that Ulai is the name of a place or of a gate, and stating that at Shushan there is no river, but only the gate of that castle, although some make the word אוּבַל (oobhal) equivalent to יוּבַל (yoobhal), a flood. There had been such a river. Calvin observes that the Latin writers mention a river Eulœus, and that he has no hesitation in understanding it to be intended here. Pliny says the river Eulæus divides Susiana from Elymais.

This vision, like the preceding one, is related by Daniel in his own name, Daniel being now not a mere narrator of events, but a witness to what had been personally communicated to him. This also, like the other, was interpreted to Daniel, at his own request, by the Angel Gabriel [218], acting under the direction of One with the appearance of a man, probably, as Calvin thinks, the Son of God Himself, who was one day to be also the Son of Man [219]. It is called “the vision of the evening and the morning,” generally considered to be a title given to it on account of the expression in Daniel 8:14, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days,” literally, as in the margin, “evening, morning” [220].

[218] “Gabriel.” For remarks on this angelic messenger see under chap. Daniel 9:21.

[219] “That certain saint” (Daniel 8:13), פַּלְמוֹנִי (palmoni); according to Keil, “a certain one, I know not who,” as not being more particularly definable. Left untranslated in the Greek. The margin of E.V. has “Palmoni;” but adds, “or the numberer of secrets, or the wonderful numberer.” Pfaff, Junius, and Willet: “a certain one,” like peloni almoni, “such a one” (Ruth 4:1); Willet thinking the Hebrew words better joined on account of the ambiguous signification. Polanus understands it to mean “secret,” from פלא (pele), “wonderful,” and עלם (’alam), “to hide.” Œcolampadius translates the word “an admirable or wonderful one,” from פלא (pele), “a wonder,” and אלמני (almoni), “a certain one.” Calvin also renders it “wonderful,” and thinks it certainly points to a person the superior of the angel who speaks, and that it denotes Christ Himself. Brightman has “an excellent one;” while Wintle adopts the marginal rendering.

[220] “The vision of the evening and the morning” (Daniel 8:26). עֶרֶב בֹּקֶר (’erebhboqer), like the νυχθήμερον (a night and day) of the Greeks (2 Corinthians 11:25). According to Keil, who renders the phrase “evening-morning,” we are to understand whole days, consisting of morning and evening (twenty-four hours). So Bertholdt, Hävernick, &c., in opposition to Bleek, Ewald, Delitzsch, and others, who, understanding the reference to the morning and evening sacrifice of each day, make the number, not 2300 whole days, but 1150. Keil thinks the verbal import of the expression doubtful; but that the choice of so unusual a measure of time, derived from the two chief parts of the day, instead of the simple measure of time by days, probably originates with reference to the morning and evening sacrifice, by which the day was to be consecrated to the Lord, after Genesis 1:5; Genesis 1:8; Genesis 1:13, &c., where the days of the creation week are named and reckoned according to the succession of evening and morning.

The vision now given is that of the Ram and the He-goat, representing respectively the Persian and the Grecian empires. It connects itself both with Nebuchadnezzar’s great image and Daniel’s four beasts, the ram being the silver breast and arms of the image and the bear of Daniel’s vision, while the he-goat corresponds with the brazen belly and thighs of the former and the four horned leopards of the latter. The vision thus brings up before us the second and third of the four great monarchies.
The special and more immediate object of the vision was to acquaint Daniel, and through him his brethren the Jews, with calamities which should overtake them many years after their return to their own land, and the happy issue out of them at the appointed time. The vision was therefore to be sealed up, marked as true and certain, and carefully preserved for future use [221]. It is remarkable that, as in the former vision with reference to the New Testament Church, these troubles were to arise from a power called a “little horn,” but in this case proceeding not from the fourth beast or Roman Empire, but from the third or Grecian one, it being within its bounds that Judea lay. From the period mentioned for the continuance of this Little Horn and his persecution of the covenant people, two thousand three hundred days, as also from the manner in which it is again introduced (chap. Daniel 11:21, &c.), it has been supposed that it is intended to exhibit a twofold aspect, or to possess a typical character, the first and nearer power being the type of another more remote; as it is not uncommon in the prophecies of Scripture for two persons, things, or events to be predicted together in one and the same prophecy, the two standing related to each other as type and antitype, and seen together as in a kind of mental perspective [222]. By universal consent, the person mere immediately described is one of the kings of Syria, which constituted one of the four kingdoms formed out of Alexander’s Grecian or Macedonian Empire. His name was Antiochus Epiphanes, or the Illustrious, the author of one of the bitterest persecutions that ever the sins of Israel brought upon their race. We have in the vision—

[221] “Shut up the vision” (Daniel 8:26). סְתוֹם (sethom), from סָתַם (satham), to stop, to conclude, to hide; but not in the sense of keeping secret, or because it would be incomprehensible for the nearest times; but in the sense of keeping, as in archives. According to Keil and Kliefoth, the meaning is simply this: Preserve the revelation, not because it is not yet to be understood, also not for the purpose of keeping it secret, but that it may remain preserved for future times. So Chrysostom: Keep and preserve it faithfully. Cardinal Hugo understands it to mean: Commit it to memory. De Lyra: Commit it to writing. Bullinger: Seal it as a thing most true and certain. Willet: Keep it from the Chaldees and from carnal men. According to Junius, it was to intimate that the vision would be long in receiving its fulfilment. Calvin understood it to mean that men were not to doubt of its fulfilment. Dr. Rule thus paraphrases: “Let nothing curiously tempt thee to break the seal, for that which God closes no creature has power to break open. Be not impatient to promulgate what thou art not able to explain; for neither is it necessary to publish what God has determined that none shall understand till the time to understand shall come. Seal it up, therefore, and let it be kept with care, every letter of it, that no rude handling obliterate the finest stroke.”

[222] “It cannot be disputed that here, in prophetic perspective, the time of the end is seen together with the period of the oppression of the people of God by Antiochus, and the first appearance of the Messiah with His return in glory to the final judgment, as the latter is the case also in chap. Daniel 2:34, &c., 44, &c., and Daniel 7:13; Daniel 7:26, &c.… For in the last vision (chaps. 10–12.) which Daniel saw, not only the time of the oppression of Antiochus and that of the last enemy are contemplated together as one, but also the whole contents of this one vision are, chap. Daniel 10:14, transferred to the ‘end of the days.” ’—Keil.

I. The rise of this power. It was to exhibit this that the vision of the ram and the he-goat was introduced (Daniel 8:3-9). A ram is seen by the prophet, and is explained by the angel to denote the Medo-Persian Empire [223]; its two horns, of which the higher came up last, representing the Medes and Persians, who together constituted the empire, the former, in the person of Darius the Mede, taking possession immediately on the fall of Babylon, while the latter, who succeeded in the person of Cyrus, was the more powerful. This ram is represented as pushing westward, northward, and southward [224], so that none could stand before him; Cyrus having extended his conquests to Babylon, Syria, and Asia Minor on the west, to Armenia and Scythia in the north, and to Egypt in the south. He is, however, confronted by a he-goat who comes from the west, with a great horn between his eyes, and so swift as to appear not to touch the ground, and is interpreted by Gabriel to denote the king of Grecia [225]. The goat attacks the ram in great fury, breaks his two horns, and utterly crushes them under his feet; verified in history by the victories obtained over the Persians by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, the founder of the Greek Empire [226], and here represented as “a notable horn” [227] of the goat. His conquests over Persia were made with such rapidity as to be included within the space of six years, while his whole course of victory elsewhere was completed in six more, when he was arrested by death in the thirty-third year of his age. This horn being thus broken or snapt asunder [228], “for it,”—or in its stead,—“came up four notable horns towards the four winds of heaven;” interpreted by the angel to mean that on the death of the first king, Alexander the Great, “four kingdoms should stand up out of the nation, but not in his power [229];” fulfilled in the well-known historical fact that, soon after Alexander’s death, his vast empire came to be divided among his four principal generals, who ruled with a power greatly inferior to his own. These, as already indicated under the visions of the great image and the four beasts, were Antigonus, or, after the battle of Ipsus, Cassander, who ruled Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus, who possessed Thrace and Asia Minor; Ptolemy Lagus, who took Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia Petraea; and Seleucus, who obtained Syria, Babylonia, and the Eastern countries as far as India; thus “towards the four winds of heaven.” It was out of the last of these that there “came forth a Little Horn,” making the most conspicuous figure in the vision; waxing “exceeding great toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land” (Daniel 8:9). This was Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes” [230], the son, though not immediate successor, of Antigonus the Great, and the eighth who had reigned as king of Syria. He greatly extended the dominions of his father, almost gaining possession of Egypt, and seizing “the pleasant land,” [231] or Palestine, on whose account it is that he is introduced at all. It is especially from the exact agreement between the prophecy and this person that Porphyry was led to maintain that it was history and not prophecy at all, and that it had been written after the events by some one who wished to palm off his composition as that of Daniel the prophet. For more in regard to him and his rise as the Little Horn, see the prophecy in chap. Daniel 11:21, &c.

[223] “A ram which had two horns.” “The kings of Media and Persia” (Daniel 8:3; Daniel 8:20). A ram’s head of gold, says Dr. Cumming, chosen as the diadem of the Persian kings, alone sufficient to identify the symbol. The figure of a ram, the symbol of Persia, Dr. Rule tells us, has been found among the ruins of Persepolis. In the Zend book Bundehesh, the guardian spirit of the Persian kingdom is represented under the figure of a ram. Dr. Rule observes that the Medo-Persian conqueror of Shushan, a Babylonian stronghold, is here foretold; and thinks that it was perhaps as much the assurance produced in his mind in this vision as any second revelation in the night of the banquet, that enabled the prophet to declare the meaning of the writing on the wall.

[224] “Pushing westward, and northward, and southward” (Daniel 8:4). Dr. Cumming observes that Lydia and Babylon were subdued by Cyrus, and Egypt by his son Cambyses. Keil remarks that the ram is to be conceived of as standing on the western bank of the river flowing on the west of Susa, from whence he pushed down with his horns all beasts before him, i.e., subdued all nations and kingdoms to his power in three regions of the earth; in the west, Babylon, Syria, and Asia Minor; in the south, Egypt; in the north, the Armenian and Scythian nations. He did not push toward the east; not because, as Hävernick thinks, the conquests of the Persians did not stretch towards that quarter, for Cyrus and Darius subdued nations to the east of Persia even as far as to the Indus; but because, for the unfolding of the Medo-Persian monarchy as a world-power, its conquests in the east were subordinate, and therefore are not mentioned.

[225] “An he-goat came from the west.” “The rough goat is the king of Grecia” (Daniel 8:5; Daniel 8:21). Dr. Taylor remarks that the symbol of a goat often appears in connection with Macedonia, and was used as an emblem of that kingdom, its origin being ascribed to the tradition that Caremus, the first king of Mace-don, was led by a flock of goats to the spot on which he decided for the capital of his kingdom. Keil observes that the goat comes from the west, as Macedonia lay west of Susa or Persia; and its coming over the earth is more definitely denoted by the expression, “he touched not the ground,” i.e., as he hastened over it in his flight,—the remark corresponding with the four wings of the leopard (chap. Daniel 7:6).

[226] “The first king.” The author of the first Book of Maccabees says that Alexander “reigned in his stead (viz., that of Darius the Mede), the first over Greece.” The author of this book, which is said to have been written originally in Hebrew, “is thought to have compiled it partly from the memoirs collected by Judas Maccabæus, and partly from those of John Hyrcanus, whose leadership began at the period where this book leaves off.” Archdeacon Harrison remarks, after Mr. Forster (Mohammedanism Unveiled) that a clear reference is made by the author of that book to the prophecy regarding Antiochus Epiphanes.

[227] “A notable horn.” קֶרֶן הָזוּת (keren khazuth), a “a horn of sight,” i.e., a horn to be looked at and contemplated with admiration. The parallel expression in Daniel 8:8, “the great horn.” Keil remarks that חָזוּת (khazuth) has the meaning of מַרְאֶה (mareh), in the keri אִיש מַרְאֶה (ish mareh) of 2 Samuel 23:21, a man of countenance or sight; a horn of sight, consideration, or considerable greatness. Sept., κέρας θεορητό. “He made many wars, and won many strong-holds, and slew the kings of the earth, and went through to the ends of the earth, and took the spoils of many nations, insomuch that the earth was quiet before him; and he ruled over countries, and nations, and kings, who became tributary to him” (1MMalachi 1:2, &c.)

[228] “The great horn was broken.” Dr. Cumming, applying the words to Alexander’s government rather than to himself, observes that the original term denotes “snapt asunder;” not gradually wasted away, nor desolated inch by inch till it disappeared. Alexander’s government was terminated with his life. The expression, however, probably refers to Alexander’s own death, which came upon him suddenly in the midst of his carousings in Babylon, the termination of his empire being the result of that event. “Here as well as at chap. Daniel 11:4 the reference of the words to the sudden death of Alexander in the prime of his days, and when in the very height of his victorious career, cannot be disputed; and by the breaking of the horn we can only understand Alexander’s death, and the breaking-up of the kingdom founded by him.”—Keil.

[229] “For it came up four notable ones.” “Four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power” (Daniel 8:8; Daniel 8:22). חָזוּת (khazuth), “sight,” the noun used in Daniel 8:5, here employed as an adverb, conspicuously; “there came forth four conspicuously in its place.” According to the interpretation of the angel, however, these four horns, though notable and conspicuous, have not the power of the one great horn. “They represent in themselves a considerable power, without, however, gaining the power of the one undivided kingdom.”—Keil. These four horns or kingdoms are the dynasties of the Diadochs, as they are called. Of these there were indeed five; but after the overthrow of Antigonus at the battle of Ipsus, 301 b.c., twenty-two years after the death of Alexander, for the first time they became in reality four kings, and divided the empire among themselves, as stated in the text All of them, however, says the historian Justin, “abstained from the use of the insignia of their dignity while the sons of their king survived. So great was their veneration, that although they had royal wealth and resources, they cared not for the name of kings, so long as there existed a legitimate heir to Alexander.”

[230] “Out of one of them came forth a little horn” (Daniel 8:9). Literally, “Out of one of them came forth one horn out of littleness,” i.e., from small beginnings. So Keil, Maurer, and others. The expression corresponds with זְעִירָה סִלְקַת (ze’irah silqath), “came up small,” in chap. Daniel 7:8. The horn was to grow to great power from a small beginning. It was to be one horn, not several. The one of the four horns from which the Little Horn grew up has been acknowledged by all interpreters since Josephus to be the Syrian monarchy, and the horn itself to be Antiochus Epiphanes. “There came out of them a wicked root, Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king” (1MMalachi 1:10). Josephus says, “Our nation suffered these calamities under Antiochus Epiphanes, as Daniel saw and wrote many years before what things should come to pass.”

[231] “The pleasant land” (Daniel 8:9) הַצִּבִיְ (hatstsebhi), the beauty, delight, or ornament, as in chap. Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:41; Daniel 11:45, where it has “land” or “mountain” connected with it. The name given to the land of Canaan, and perhaps to Jerusalem, its capital, from its pleasantness and beauty, but more especially from its being chosen as the land in which Jehovah was pleased to manifest Himself; hence, in chap. Daniel 11:45, the addition of the epithet “holy.” According to Keil, “splendour, glory;” the glorious land. So Calvin. The same word used as the name of the roe, from its pleasantness and beauty. The expeditions of Antiochus referred to in the text are thus related in the first Book of Maccabees, “Now when the kingdom was established before Antiochus, he thought to reign over Egypt [in the south], that he might have the dominion of two realms. Wherefore he entered into Egypt with a great multitude, with chariots, and elephants, and horsemen, and a great navy; and made war against Ptolemy, king of Egypt, and he took the spoils thereof. And after that Antiochus had smitten Egypt, he returned again, and went up against Israel and Jerusalem with a great multitude” (1Ma. 1:16-20).

II. His character. The notes given of him by Gabriel are:—

1. Pride. “He magnified himself even to (or against) the prince of the host,” i.e., God Himself or the Messiah, called also the Prince of princes: “He shall magnify himself in his heart, and shall stand up against the Prince of princes” (Daniel 8:14; Daniel 8:25). The author of the second Book of Maccabees says, in like manner, that “he thought he might command the waves of the sea and weigh the high mountains in a balance; so proud was he beyond the condition of men.” The same book relates that when humbled in his last hours by the hand of God so heavily laid upon him, conscious of his past pride, he said, “It is meet to be subject unto God; and a man that is mortal should not proudly think of himself as if he were God.” Pride, and especially pride in relation to God, always a prominent feature in the description of Antichrist.

2. Fierceness. “A king of fierce countenance” (Daniel 8:23). This feature in his character sufficiently verified by his doings as related in the first Book of Maccabees. When he first came against Jerusalem, under the impression that the Jews had revolted, “removing from Egypt in a furious mind, he took the city by force of arms, and commanded his men of war not to spare such as they met, and to slay such as went up upon the houses.” Even with his last sickness upon him, he is said to have been still filled with pride, and to have breathed out fire in his rage against the Jews. This enemy was to be daring and shameless, without fear either of God or man.

3. Knowledge and penetration. “Understanding dark sentences” (Daniel 8:23). The exact meaning and application of this clause uncertain [232]. Bishop Newton thinks it denotes that the Little Horn should be “a politic and artful as well as a formidable power.” The second Book of Maccabees speaks of him as thinking in his pride to “make the land navigable and the sea passable on foot,” as if possessed of extraordinary knowledge or acquaintance with magical powers. He was to be clever, and possessing no ordinary powers of intellect. Even Satan is transformed into an angel of light.

[232] “Understanding dark sentences.” Literally, “understanding mysteries;” חִידוֹת (khidhoth); but probably taken in a bad sense; concealing his purpose behind ambiguous words, using dissimulation, forming artifices. So Keil, who thinks the expression is interpreted in Daniel 8:25 by מִרְמָה (mirmah), craft or deceit. The Sept. and Vulg. have, “understanding problems or propositions.” Luther refers the expression to his craftiness; while Calvin understands it also of his cleverness; not easy to be deceived—skilled in enigmas. So Martin (French): Of a penetrating spirit. Grotius interprets it of his knowledge of tricks, stratagems, and wiles; knowing in what way many of the Jews might be drawn away from their religion. Junius and Geier understand it as denoting his sagacity in investigating and finding out abstruse matters. Adam Clarke thinks the expression to mean—learned and skilful in all things relating to government and its intrigues, and apparently typical of Rome, whose legal learning is proverbial to the present time. R. Saadias understood it of his mastery of the “dark sentences” or enigmas of the principal kings of his time, viz., those of Greece, Rome, and Persia.

4. Policy and craft. “Through his policy he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand,” and “by peace he shall destroy many” (Daniel 8:25). Much of his success against the Jews appears as the result of this feature of his character [233]. His general, Apollonius, coming to Jerusalem with an army and pretending peace, forbore from his operations until the Sabbath, when, taking advantage of the Jewish habit of resting on that sacred day, he armed his men, and, rushing on the unprepared Jews, he slew them all (2 Maccabees 5) The enemy to be characterised by great ability to deceive. Paul speaks of “all deceivableness of unrighteousness.”

[233] “Through his policy he shall cause craft to prosper” (Daniel 8:25). שֵׂכֶל (sechel), sagacity; generally used in a good sense; here apparently in a bad one,—cunning. Through his cleverness his deceit should be successful. Great intelligence and cleverness to characterise both type and antitype. “All deceivableness of unrighteousness.” Satan transformed into an angel of light.

III. His doings. “It waxed great even to (or against) the host of heaven;” probably the Jewish people or Church of God; [234] and it “cast down some of the host of the stars (individuals among them) to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to (or against) the prince of the host (probably the promised Messiah or God Himself); and by Him the daily sacrifice”—the ordinary stated worship of Jehovah at Jerusalem, accompanied with and expressed by the offering of a lamb every morning and evening—“and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. And an host [235] (or a time) was given him against (or over) the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth”—the Jewish worship and religion—“to the ground, and it practised and prospered” (Daniel 8:9-12). In the interpretation of the vision it is said, “He shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people,”—the Jews, called to be to God “a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6; Exodus 19:24). The first Book of Maccabees reveals the exact fulfilment of this part of the prophecy, [236] as well as the fact, also predicted, that these outrages did not take place till the apostasy of a large number of the Jews had ripened them for the judgment: “The transgressors had come to the full” [237]. “The Lord was angry for a while for the sins of them that dwelt in the city; therefore His eye was not upon the place.” The result of Antiochus waxing great toward “the pleasant land” was that forty thousand of the Jews were slain and an equal number sold into captivity.

[234] “The host of heaven.” Here, as in Jeremiah 33:22, the whole body of the stars of heaven, interpreted by the angel in Daniel 8:24 to denote the people of the saints, or the covenannt people of God, the stars who were cast to the ground being therefore individuals among the people, and not necessarily the priests or leaders. “He (the general) fell suddenly upon the city, and smote it very sore, and destroyed many people of Israel” (1Ma. 1:30).

[235] “An host was given him against the daily sacrifice” (Daniel 8:12). צָבָא (tsabha), “a host.” According to Keil, it denotes only military service, or perhaps military forces; and the proper rendering of the passage is, “An host shall be given up, together with the daily sacrifice, because of transgression,” viz., the apostasy of Israel from God. So, in general, C. B. Michaelis, Hävernick, V. Lengerke, Maurer, and Kliefoth. So also Willet, Bullinger, Junius, and Polanus; the latter, however, reading “against the daily sacrifice;” and understanding by the transgression especially the treachery of the priests’ Jason and Menelaus, through which the city and Temple were betrayed (2 Maccabees , 4.) Calvin understands the word צָבָא (tsabha) in the sense of “an appointed time,” as in Job 7:1; and considers the meaning to be, that Antiochus could do nothing unless divinely permitted and previously limited; that God would try the patience of His Church for a certain definite time, but that Antiochus should not be able to abolish the worship of God.—תָּמִיד (tamidh), “daily sacrifice;” literally, “the continual;” comprehends all that is of permanent use in the service or worship of God. So Keil, Hengstenberg, Hävernick, &c.

[236] “It cast down the truth to the ground” (Daniel 8:12). אֱמֶת (emeth), “truth,” “the truth;” here objective truth; the Word of God, so far as it is embodied in external worship; the Jewish religion and worship as appointed by God Himself. The first Book of Maccabees (1Ma. 1:43, &c.) informs us how far this was “cast down “by Antiochus. “He entered proudly into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels thereof, and the table of the shewbread, and the pouring vessels, and the bowls, and the censers of gold, and the veil, the crowns, and the golden ornaments that were before the Temple; all which he pulled off. He took also the silver and the gold and the precious vessels.… Moreover, King Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and every one should receive his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king. Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols and profaned the Sabbath. For the king had sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and to the cities of Judah that they should follow the strange laws of the king, and forbid burnt-offerings and sacrifices and drink-offerings in the Temple, and that they should profane the Sabbath-days and festival days, and pollute the sanctuary and holy people.” The punishment of non-compliance was death, which was rigorously inflicted.

[237] “When the transgressors are come to the full” (Daniel 8:23). כְּהָתֵם (kehathem), literally, “at the making full,” or “when they have made full,” i.e., their transgression, or the measure of their sins, understood from the conception of the subject. The transgressors, הַפּשְׁעִים (happoshe’im), are the rebellious among the Jews, who apostatised and cast off the religion of Jehovah for the manners of the Greeks, as in Daniel 8:12; perhaps with special reference to the leaders in the apostasy. The author of the first Book of Maccabees thus relates: “When on the death of Seleucus, king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes came to the kingdom, Jason, the brother of Onias the high priest, laboured underhand to obtain that dignity, promising the king a large sum of money as a bribe, and at the same time another large sum if he might have licence to set him up a place for exercise, and for the training up of youth in the fashions of the heathen; which, when the king had granted, and he had gotten into his hand the rich, he forthwith brought his own nation to the Greek fashion, and putting down the governments which were according to law, he brought up new customs against the law. For he gladly built a place of exercise under the tower itself, and brought the chief young men under his subjection.… Now such was the height of Greek fashions and increase of heathenish manners, through the exceeding profanity of Jason, that ungodly wretch and no high priest, that the priests had no courage to serve any more at the altar; but, despising the Temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened to be partakers of the unlawful allowance in the place of exercise, … not setting by the honour of their fathers, but liking the glory of the Grecians best of all. By reason whereof sore calamities came upon them; for they had them to be their enemies and avengers whose customs they followed so eagerly, and to whom they desired to be like in all things. For it is no light thing to do wickedly against the law of God.”

IV. His continuance. “He practised and prospered” (Daniel 8:12). It is not said how long; but in Daniel 8:13-14, it is related by the prophet, “Then I heard one saint (or holy one, namely, an angel) speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint (marg., “the numberer of secrets” or “the wonderful numberer,” probably the Son of God, whose name is Wonderful, Isaiah 9:6; Judges 13:18), which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice and the transgression of desolation (marg., “making desolate”), to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And He said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days (marg., “evening-morning,” or evening and morning), and then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” The sanctuary was defiled by Antiochus, and the daily sacrifice made to cease in the year 168 B.C. In that year, two years after his first coming up from Egypt against Jerusalem, he sent his chief collector to put an end to the temple-worship, and thus to lay waste the sanctuary till it was made “like a wilderness” (1Ma. 1:39). It was not till about four years afterwards that he died. The sanctuary, however, had been cleansed in the preceding year by Mattathias and his sons the Maccabees, after it had been defiled between three and four years. The time mentioned in the text—“two thousand and three hundred days”—might, it has been thought, indicate the period from the first attack of Antiochus on Jerusalem, when he “entered proudly the sanctuary and took away the golden altar,” &c., till the cleansing of it between five and six years afterwards [238]. Viewed typically and reckoned on the large year-day prophetic scale, a day being counted a year, according to Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:5-6, the cleansing would apparently take place, A.D. 2132.

[238] “Unto two thousand and three hundred days (marg., evening morning): then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Calvin says these days fill up six years and three and a half months, while the Jews suffered under Antiochus about six years. Keil also understands the period here mentioned as two thousand three hundred days, but views it rather as symbolical, the oppression of Antiochus having continued not fully seven years. Wintle thinks the expression “evening morning” should induce us to understand those days in the first instance literally, rather than of months and years; and would thus refer them to the tyranny of Antiochus, without forgetting the reference to Antichrist, of whom Antiochus was the type. Dr. Rule, however, remarks: “The king of fierce countenance (Daniel 8:23) was to arise in the latter part of the kingdom of the successors of Alexander, which kingdom began about three hundred and seven years before Christ. The defilement of the Temple, b.c. 168, took place only one hundred and two years before the extinction of the Syrian kingdom, b.c. 66, and therefore ‘in the latter time of their kingdom,’ that is to say, the kingdom of the four kings; and must be taken to make the commencement of the two thousand three hundred years, which, on that calculation, will terminate in the year of our Lord 2132. About that year, therefore, if we correctly understand the prophecy, some state of things is likely to arise that shall answer to the cleansing of the sanctuary, the restoration of the daily sacrifice, the ending of the transgression of desolation, and the fulfilment of Daniel’s vision.”

V. His end (Daniel 8:25). “He shall be broken without hand.” Neither in battle, nor by the hand of the assassin, nor any other human instrumentality, but by the secret operation and mighty power of God, was this oppressor of His people and His cause to meet with his end. Prophecy was fulfilled in his death as truly as in his life. History relates that having gone to Elymais, in Persia, in quest of gold to pay the Roman tribute, he left the place in great heaviness to return to Babylon. “There came to him,” however, says the author of 1st Maccabees, “one who brought him tidings into Persia that his armies, which went against the land of Judea, were put to flight,” and that the people “had pulled down the abomination which he had set up upon the altar in Jerusalem.” When the king heard this “he was astonished and sore moved; whereupon he laid him down upon his bed and fell sick for grief, because it had not befallen him as he had looked for; and there he continued many days, his grief always increasing, and he made account that he should die.” Then calling his friends together, he is said to have addressed them in the following terms: “I now remember the evils that I did at Jerusalem, and that I took all the vessels of gold and silver that were therein, and sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judea without a cause. I perceive, therefore, that for this cause these troubles are come upon me, and behold, I perish through great grief in a strange land” (1Ma. 6:4-16). The second Book of Maccabees further relates that, fleeing from Persepolis, where he had attempted to rob the temple, and coming to Ecbatana, he received the tidings of the defeat of his generals, Nicanor and Timotheus, in Judea, and that upon this he resolved to hasten his return to Jerusalem, threatening to make it a common burying place of the Jews; but that as soon as he uttered the words, “he was smitten with an incurable and invisible plague, being seized with severe pains in his bowels,” aggravated by a sore fall from his chariot while driving violently in haste for revenge; while, “along with his extreme pain, the worms rose up out of his body, his flesh fell away, and the noisomeness of the smell that issued from him was such that no one could endure to carry him, and that he himself was unable to bear it.”

From the whole chapter we may notice—

1. The reality of fulfilled prophecy. The proof of the predictions contained in this chapter being true prophecy and not history, as well as of their actual fulfilment, such as to be sufficient to convince any but those who will not believe either in prophecy or miracle on any evidence whatever. The fulfilment of the prophecy in this section so exact that writers of the Rationalistic school have employed all their ingenuity to disprove the genuineness of the book and to make it to be a forgery of later times. Our comfort to know that as God possesses the knowledge of future events, so He has given to His people a proof of His concern for their welfare by communicating to them through His servants, centuries beforehand, events that shall surely come to pass.

2. The interest taken by angelic beings in the affairs of the Church and the world. This interest exhibited here by two celestial personages, one of whom at least is a created angel. Their interest in the vision and its interpretation an example worthy of our imitation, for whose benefit both were given. If an angel inquired with concern of Him who is the revealer of secrets, “How long shall be the vision?” well may those do so who have a personal interest in the events foretold.

3. The duty of inquiring into the meaning of the word of prophecy. This taught by the example of the prophet himself. Daniel, not satisfied with receiving the vision, earnestly sought its meaning. If the prophets themselves “inquired diligently what, and what manner of time, the Spirit that was in them did signify, when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow,” how much more ought we to do so for whom they ministered? (1 Peter 1:10-12).

4. Jesus the Author both of the prophecies and their interpretation. Little doubt but that here and in chap. 9. He is the person who is introduced as communicating with Daniel through a created angel. So the New Testament prophecies are called “the revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him,” and which “He sent and signified by His angel unto His servant John” (Revelation 1:1). So in chap. Revelation 22:16 : “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.” “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” A sufficient reason surely for studying the prophetic Word, as well as a sweet encouragement to look for divine help in understanding its meaning. The prophetic office of Jesus never to be forgotten.

5. The instrumentality of others employed by the Head of the Church in communicating knowledge. The interpretation of the vision not given to Daniel directly, but through the medium of an angel. “Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.” So Philip was sent to expound to the eunuch the prophecy he was reading: “How can I understand except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:30-31).

6. The tendency of the heart to backslide from God. Within four centuries after the return of the Jews from Babylon, they are found to have departed so far from God, and to have adopted so much the ways of the heathen, that fresh and still greater calamities were made to overtake them, almost to their entire extinction as a people. Only too much ground for the warning, “Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”

7. The danger to true religion from the influence of the world around us, and the necessity of guarding against it. The danger to Israel after their return to their own land was that they were surrounded by the heathen and brought into close contact with them. “They were mixed with the heathen and learned their ways.” The danger from conformity to the world, the rock against which the Church of God needs constantly to be warned. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” Hence the exhortation, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

8. God’s patience and long-suffering. Not till “the transgressors had come to the full” did He employ the scourge of the Syrian oppression for their correction. Sentence against an evil work not speedily executed. The long-suffering of God to be accounted salvation. God not willing that any should perish. His goodness intended to lead to repentance. Only when that fails goodness is exchanged for severity.

9. The mercy of divine chastisement. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” Better for Israel to have Antiochus let loose upon them than to continue to learn and practise the ways of the heathen and sink into apostasy. Better smart for sin in time than suffer for it in eternity. The case of Israel and Antiochus is given as an example of the use of persecution to discipline the Church of God and His ministers, and to prepare the way for the Saviour.

10. The wretched depravity of the human heart. In Antiochus Epiphanes, as in millions more, we have an example of the madness that is in men’s hearts while they live without God and are strangers to His grace. The tendency of the heart to increase in depravity as its desires are indulged. No height of pride or depth of wickedness to which a man may not arrive when left to himself and the enemy of souls. One prayed to be kept from that most hideous of sights, a human heart. Better the saying of the heathen philosopher, “Know thyself.”

11. Oppressors and persecutors still in God’s hand. To Antiochus, as to others, He says, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” The tyrant and oppressor employed as His scourge as long as He sees necessary, and then arrested in his madness, either in mercy or in judgment. Saul, breathing out slaughter against God’s saints, is awakened and saved; Antiochus perseveres in his cruelty till he is “broken without hand.”

12. Timely help and deliverance provided for God’s persecuted people. While Antiochus is prepared as a scourge for backsliding Israel, Mattathias and his sons are raised up as means for their deliverance. So with the Jews and Sennacherib. “The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold,” &c. Herod Agrippa stretches out his hand to vex certain of the Church, and he is smitten with an unseen hand and eaten up of worms. Queen Mary dies while Bernard Gilpin is on his way to a martyr’s death. Persecutors seldom allowed to be long livers, and when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. Where Satan raises up a Pharaoh, God in His time prepares a Moses.

13. Religious privileges and ordinances not sufficient to keep the Church from backsliding from God, nor to save it from punishment when it does so. The abuse of such privileges among a nation’s greatest sins, and the cause of its sorest chastisements. The sin which brought Antiochus against the Jews and Mahomet against the Christians. The ark of God no safety to unfaithful Israel from the hand of the Philistines. “Take away her battlements, for they are not the Lord’s.” England’s greatest danger from despised mercies and abused privileges. Britain’s highest privilege the abundance of her Bibles and the freeness of her Gospel. The present a time, however, for all the lovers of their country to cry mightily to God to save her from the sin of a refused Bible and a rejected Saviour.



Although the vision of the Syrian or Grecian Little Horn had plainly its fulfilment in Antiochus Epiphanes, yet there have appeared reasons for believing that it looked beyond that monarch to another power, of which it might be regarded as the type [239]. This has seemed especially probable from the time during which the sanctuary was to remain uncleansed and the daily sacrifice to be abolished. The pollution of the Temple by Antiochus, strictly speaking, continued only some three years or three years and a half; which latter term would be not 2300, but 1260 days. The probability is that the term “days,” or, as it is here peculiarly expressed, “evening mornings,” as often elsewhere in prophecy, is to be understood of years; as it obviously is in chap. 12., and as the “weeks” in the next chapter are well known to be weeks not of days but of years. Another reason for regarding this Little Horn as typical of another power afterwards to arise is the fact that the Scripture elsewhere applies the same language to a power that was only to appear in connection with the fourth beast or Roman Empire, and that is usually spoken of as the Antichrist; while the evils predicted as wrought by Antiochus against the Jews were much less than those inflicted both upon Jews and Christians (the people of the new covenant) by another power in many respects resembling him. There appears reason, therefore, to regard the “Little Horn “of the third beast or Grecian Empire as typical of that other “Little Horn “of the fourth beast or Roman Empire predicted in chap. 7. It is thus that Antiochus was regarded by the early Christians as a type of Antichrist.

[239] Bishop Newton observes that most of the ancient fathers and modern divines and commentators agree with Jerome in applying the prophecy to Antiochus Epiphanes, while all allow at the same time that Antiochus was a type of Antichrist, and that in this great enemy of the truth the prophecy was to obtain its full accomplishment. The Bishop, who regards the Roman Empire as the antitype, observes: “Antiochus did indeed take away the daily sacrifice, but he did not cast down the place of the sanctuary—he did not destroy the Temple. He took away the sacrifice for a few years, but the Romans for many ages; and the Romans likewise utterly destroyed the Temple, which Antiochus only spoiled and profaned.” He adds, that “Antiochus did not so mightily destroy the Jews nor prosper in his heathenish designs against them. Antiochus slew forty thousand and sold forty thousand more; the Romans, after the city was taken, slew eleven hundred thousand and sold ninety-seven thousand more. Antiochus meant to root out the whole people, but his success was not equal; the Romans put an end to the government of the Jews and entirely took away their place and nation.” Calvin remarks: “It would please me better to see any one wishing to adapt this prophecy to the present use of the Church, and to apply to Antichrist, by analogy, what is said of Antiochus. We know that whatever happened to the Church of old belongs also to us, because we have fallen upon the fulness of times.” Jerome had said: “Most Christians refer this place to Antichrist, and affirm that what was transacted in a type under Antiochus Epiphanes will be fulfilled in truth under Antichrist.” Luther says: “All former teachers have called and interpreted this Antiochus a figure of the final Antichrist, and they have hit the right mark.” Wieseler remarks that “Antiochus Epiphanes, in his self-deifying fanatical haughtiness and his enmity against God and divine worship, is very properly the type of Antichrist.” Keil says: “The circumstance that the description of the Little Horn growing up between the ten horns of the fourth beast, the speaking great and blasphemous things against the Most High, and thinking to change times and laws (chap. Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:24, &c.), harmonises in certain features with the representation of Antiochus Epiphanes, described by the Little Horn (chap, 8.), which would destroy the people of the Holy One, rise up against the Prince of princes, and be broken without hand of man, does not at all warrant the identification of these enemies of God and His people rising out of different world-kingdoms, but corresponds perfectly with this idea that Antiochus in his war against the people of God was a type of Antichrist, the great enemy arising out of the last world-kingdom.”

It has, however, been believed by some, on apparently satisfactory grounds, that besides the Antichrist of the fourth beast or Roman Empire, Antiochus might typify another power that was to prove as hurtful to the Christian Church as that tyrant was to the Jewish one, and which was to arise within the bounds of the same third empire to which Antiochus himself belonged. That power was the Mohammedan or Turkish, which, with Mahomet for its head and representative, might be called the Antichrist of the East, as the Papacy, with the Roman Pontiff as its head, was of the West; and which, like the latter, appears to occupy a considerable place in the Apocalypse of the New Testament. See Revelation 9:1-19; Revelation 16:12. The pollution of the sanctuary and the “abomination of desolation standing in the holy place,” which were to characterise the future Antichrist, as it had done Antiochus, has marked the conduct no less of the Moslems than of the Romans. The latter polluted the Temple by planting an idolatrous standard, the Roman eagle, within its walls after the siege [240], while a new city, called Ælia Capitolina, was erected on the ruins of Jerusalem, which no Jew was allowed to approach. The doings of the Moslems have been no less marked in respect to the Temple, the Holy City, and the Jewish people, while they have been especially directed against the people of the new covenant, the Christian Church in its Eastern branch, with its sanctuaries and worship [241]; and it is not a little remarkable that, as D’Aubigné observes. “At the beginning of the seventh century, while the sturdy shoulders of the children of the idolatrous North were placing on the supreme throne of Christendom a pastor on the banks of the Tiber, these events were accomplishing in the West precisely at the period when the power of Mahomet arose in the East.” It may be interesting to trace the typical analogy in the various particulars enumerated in the preceding chapter.

[240] Josephus relates that after the city was taken the Romans brought their ensigns into the Temple and placed them over against the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there. Bishop Newton remarks that the Roman army itself is fitly called “the abomination,” and “the abomination of desolation,” as it was to desolate and lay waste Jerusalem; and is said to stand in the holy place when compassing the city; Jerusalem itself and a space around it being accounted holy.
[241] Dr. Cox remarks that in this chapter, according to Faber, whose interpretation appears to be, on good grounds, now universally [rather, extensively] adopted, the prophet records the history of the Mohammedan imposture. He adds that “the first efforts of the impostor were directed against the Jews, who refused to receive Mohammed’s effusions as the revelations of Heaven, and in consequence suffered the loss of their possessions and lives.” So that under the modern Antichrist the Jews suffered as well as the Christians. Gibbon says: “Mohammed, with the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other, erected his throne on the ruins of Christianity and of Rome. The genius of the Arabian prophet, the manners of his nation, and the spirit of his religion, involved the causes of the decline and fall of the Eastern empire; and our eyes are curiously intent on one of the most memorable revolutions which have impressed a new and lasting character on the nations of the globe.” E. Irving observes that the third of the four chief streams of prophecy presented in the Book of Daniel (viz., that in this 8th chapter), “connected itself with the former, at the struggle of the third kingdom with the second, in order that it may trace, within the territory of the third, the rise of another blasphemous power [the Mohammedan], which was also to prevail against the saints of God till the time of the end.” Dr. Keith says: “The ‘king of fierce countenance’ is Mohammed, who offered only submission or the sword, and ‘understanding dark sentences’ (wherewith the Koran pre eminently abounds); who stood up and became mighty, not by his own power, Mohammed possessing no hereditary dominion and rising from nothing. The ‘holy ones’ are the Christians, whose churches, ‘the host and the stars,’ he cast to the ground; prospering by ‘policy and craft’ through a faith accommodated to the passions of men; ‘magnifying himself in his heart,’ saying, ‘There is no God but one, and Mohammed is His prophet;’ ‘magnifying himself against the Prince of the host’ by calling himself a greater prophet than Christ; and destroying the land he subjugated more ‘by peace’ than others have done by war.”

I. The rise of their power. The Saracen power, like Mahomet himself, arose in Arabia, while that of the Turks had its origin in Parthia, near the Oxus, both being within the territory of the he-goat or Grecian Empire, and indeed that part of it from which the Little Horn was to spring, and of which Antiochus was the ruler. Like the founder of the religion which bears his name, the Turkish Empire was “little” in its beginning, commencing with Togrul Beg, a Turcoman shepherd, the petty chief of a petty clan. Togrul, by marrying the Caliph’s daughter, from being, as Dr. Cumming remarks, “a petty and contemptible chief, became the loyal and all but irresistible propagandist of Mahometan fanaticism.”

II. Its character. Pride obviously belonged to one who claimed to be the supreme prophet of God, whose teachings and revelations were to supersede those both of Moses and of Christ, and to a people that believe themselves to be alone the faithful and the favourites of the Almighty, and despise all others as dogs and infidels. Fierceness is the well-known characteristic both of Saracens and Turks, a people, according to one of their own chiefs, whose “delight is in war rather than in peace,” and who, in the language of Gibbon speaking of the Turkish nations, “still breathe the fierceness of the desert.” The singular and somewhat obscure feature of “understanding dark sentences” may not unnaturally be applied to one who pretended to receive the Koran, with all its mysterious and dark sentences, from the mouth of the Angel Gabriel, a book which has been the study of many of his followers in relation to the most abstruse theological subjects, while many others have entered as profoundly into the various branches of mathematical and scientific knowledge,—Mahomet’s successor, Ali, uniting, as Gibbon remarks, “the qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint.”

By policy and craft Mahomet is known to have made the progress he did, acting as a worldly ruler while pretending to be the prophet of God and the organ of divine communications to mankind. “In the exercise of political government,” says the historian just quoted, “Mahomet was compelled to abate the stern rigour of fanaticism, to comply with the prejudices and passions of his followers, and to employ even the vices of mankind as the instruments of their salvation. The use of fraud and perfidy, of cruelty and injustice, was often subservient to the propagation of the faith.” He is believed to have worn the mask of sanctity and mortification only the better to extend his imposture in the world; while his craft appears in pretending new and contradictory communications from Heaven to meet emergencies and requirements as they arose.

III. Its doings. Like Antiochus Epiphanes, the Saracens and Turks “waxed exceeding great toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.” They extended their conquests to Egypt, Persia, &c., and to Palestine, the last being in their possession to the present day. The Caliph Omar, in the seventh century, obtained possession of Jerusalem, and immediately caused a magnificent mosque to be erected on the site of the ancient Temple. On his entering the city, the Christian patriarch Sophronius, says Gibbon, “bowed before his new master, and muttered, in the words of Daniel, ‘the abomination of desolation is in the holy place.’ ” In place of the worship of the Triune Jehovah through the one Mediator Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, was substituted the worship of a Being of whom Mahomet taught that it was unbecoming to say that He could have a son, and who was to be approached through no Mediator unless it might be himself, and through no offering except a man’s own meritorious actions. The daily sacrifice was taken away in its true sense, as it had been by Antiochus in its typical one. The religion of Jesus, with its one sacrifice for sin, was banished from the precincts of the Temple area, within which even now a Christian is scarcely permitted to enter. Nor indeed did this take place till, as in the case of Antiochus and the Jews, “the transgressors had come to the full;” Moslems and Turks being simply the scourge of a degenerate Christianity, which had changed “the Gospel of the blessed God” into what was in many respects a lie, and His worship into a mass of foolish and worthless superstitions [242]. By them the mystical holy city, the Church of Christ, as well as the literal one, was to be trodden under foot. Everywhere Christian churches were either demolished or converted into mosques [243], and were permitted to remain as such only on the payment of a tribute, the memorials of this profane desolation meeting you everywhere in the East at the present day, as well as in Constantinople itself, where the most splendid mosques, as that of St. Sophia, were originally employed for Christian worship before the Crescent supplanted the Cross. The well-known option to the Christian was between renouncing Christianity, tribute, and death [244]. How Mahomet magnified himself against the Prince of princes, and cast down the truth to the ground, was made only too obvious by the well-known watchword, “There is no God but one, and Mahomet is His prophet;” and by the law, rescinded only a few years ago under British influence, that made it death for a Moslem to become a Christian.

[242] “The Christians of the seventh century,” says Gibbon, “had insensibly relapsed into a semblance of Paganism; their public and private vow were addressed to the relics and images that disgraced the temples of the East; the throne of the Almighty was darkened by a cloud of martyrs and saints and angels, the objects of popular veneration; and the Collyridian heretics, who flourished in the fruitful soil of Arabia, invested the Virgin Mary with the name and honours of a goddess.”
[243] “When Christian churches,” says Scott the commentator, “were converted into mosques, the ‘daily sacrifice’ might be said to be taken away.”
[244] “Ye Christian dogs!” said Kaled to the Christians of Damascus, “ye know your option—the Koran, the tribute, or the sword.”—Gibbon (“Decline and Fall,” &c., chap. 51.)

IV. Its end. The Little Horn was to be “broken without hand.” We have seen the fulfilment of this part of the prophecy in relation to the person of Antiochus. In his Moslem antitype, however, we look for it rather in the power than the person. In the Book of Revelation the Turkish power, which succeeded the Saracenic and continued the reign of Islam, is presented under the symbol of the river Euphrates, the quarter from whence it sprung (Revelation 9:14-15). That river, however, was to be “dried up,” that “the way of the kings of the East might be prepared” (Revelation 16:12). The Turkish power, after serving the purpose for which in the providence of God it was “prepared” for an appointed time, was to be gradually dissolved till it wholly disappeared. This decay or “drying up” was to take place, according to apocalyptic symbol, as the effect of the effusion of the sixth vial, while that of the seventh was to bring the end. The fact that, in the days in which we live, this decay of the Turkish Empire is rapidly going on, is well known to every intelligent reader of the newspapers. One of the subjects recently engaging the attention of Europe was the demand of Greece for the rectification of its extended frontier, involving the surrender of Turkish territory. More than half a century ago E. Irving wrote: “Though the destruction of the Mahometan power is yet future, it is even now beginning to be ‘broken without hand’ by its own disorganisation and dismemberment—wasting away of inward consumption, according to the language of the sixth vial” [245]. From the year 1820, the Turkish power has been “the sick man,” gradually losing his strength and coming to his end. Moslems themselves believe that, according to ancient prophecy, the days of Islam are numbered. Daniel’s period for the antitypical cleansing of the sanctuary cannot, therefore, be far distant [246]. Nor is it unlikely that, as the Papal and Moslem Antichrists began their disastrous course almost together, so together, or within a short period of each other, they will perish.

[245] Fifty years ago it was written by Lamartine, “Turkey is dying rapidly for want of Turks.” Another, writing subsequently from Constantinople, says, “Turkey is in the agony of dissolution.” A recent death-pang was in the cession of Dulcigno to Montenegro at the bidding of the powers of Europe; immediately followed by another, the cession of more of its territory to Greece.
[246] Dating from the time of Alexander’s invasion of Asia in 334 b.c., according to Bishop Newton and others, the 2300 years expire in 1966 a.d. or, if the Septuagint reading be adopted, a century later. Dr. Cumming prefers to date this period from the time when the Persian Empire reached its meridian glory in the year 480 b.c., just before the defeat of Xerxes on his invasion of Greece; which brings the period to its close in 1820 a.d., when it is well known the decay of the Ottoman Empire began by the revolt of Ali Pasha and the insurrection of the Greeks. Dr. Cox observes: “It is some clue to the commencement of the period to remark that Daniel does not refer to the origin of the Persian monarchy, but to some period afterwards when it is to become a settled government; because the Medo-Persian ram does not rise from the sea, but stands, already grown, upon the margin of the river. Cyrus and Darius were conquerors, but it was not till the seventh year of Artaxerxes that the empire had attained its’ strength. The Medo-Persian ram rose in the year b.c. 536, and continued to stand till b.c. 330; the date of the vision therefore is between these years.” To date the period from the middle of that interval would bring its termination to the year a.d. 1897, or, if we read according to the Septuagint, a century later.

The effect of the vision upon Daniel himself, noted in the end of the chapter. “I, Daniel, fainted, and was sick certain days” (Daniel 8:27). The mere circumstances of the vision might have thus operated on Daniel’s physical system. Communication with angelic beings in the present state probably too much for the human frame to endure without considerable derangement. It is likely, however, that the nature of the communication made had the principal share in producing this effect. The prospect of so much misery in store for his people after their restoration to their own land, and that, too, as the consequence of their own multiplied and matured transgressions, especially their abandonment of Jehovah’s worship, was too much for the sensitive and beloved prophet. Daniel felt as a patriot, a prophet, and a man of God. From this, the concluding part of the chapter, we may note—

1. It is the part of sin to blunt, but of grace to intensify, natural feelings. The more that our nature is refined and purified, the more shall we be affected by the sins and sorrows of others, especially those of our own kindred and country. The more we are made to resemble the Sinless One, the more readily shall we with Him mingle our tears with the bereaved and weep over a city that rejects its God and Saviour. The same grace drew from the tender-hearted prophet the exclamation, “Oh, that my head were waters and mine eyes fountains of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughters of my people;” and caused the manly, courageous Apostle to write, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Jeremiah 9:1; Romans 9:23).

2. The feelings and affections moved by realised truth according to its nature. The effect of truth, cordially received and realised, as in the case of the prophet, is to produce either joy or sorrow, hope or fear, love or aversion. The depth and power of the emotion according to the character of the truth and the intensity with which it is realised. The proper effect of Gospel truth to produce not only love to the revealed Saviour, but to fill the soul with joy (1 Peter 1:8). Believed and realised prediction of divine visitation for sin naturally productive of deep concern. The mark of the godly to tremble at God’s word (Isaiah 66:2). “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble” (Habakkuk 3:16). It is the nature of sin to harden the heart against divine threatenings (Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 4:7). While Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled. His ruin was that he resisted his convictions, silenced his fears, and hardened his heart by a return to his sins.

3. Religious concern no hindrance to daily duty. Daniel’s sickness disabled him for duty while it lasted, which was only for “certain days.” So soon as it was over he “rose up and did the king’s business” (Daniel 8:27). Daniel’s well-balanced mind knew how to be “diligent in business” while “fervent in spirit.” One form, fruit, and evidence of serving God faithfully is the faithful discharge of relative duties. Daniel was faithful and diligent in serving the king because he was faithful and diligent in serving God. His diligence and fidelity as well as his wisdom the source and secret of his influence at the Babylonian and Persian courts. “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings, and shall not stand before mean men.”

4. God’s dealings often dark and mysterious. Daniel “was astonished at the vision” (Daniel 8:27). Events in providence often very different from our anticipation. Daniel expected a long period of peace and prosperity to his people on their settlement in their own land, according to the glowing descriptions of Isaiah and other prophets; while Israel, taught by bitter experience, would henceforth walk in the ways of the Lord. Both of these expectations were contradicted by the vision. Messiah was not yet to appear. The people were to suffer more than ever, and their suffering was to be the chastisement of their apostasy and sin. “His way is in the sea, and His path on the great waters.” Patience is to have her perfect work. “Though the vision tarry, wait for it.” One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. God is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness. If He delay to fulfil His promise, it is because delay is better than despatch. “My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts, saith the Lord.”

5. Knowledge of prophetic truth not in all cases vouchsafed. “None understood the vision” (Daniel 8:27). Daniel was to “shut up the vision” (Daniel 8:27). It was true, and therefore to be carefully preserved; but its fulfilment was distant, “for many days.” As the time of fulfilment drew nigh it would be pondered and better understood. “At the end it shall speak, and not lie” (Habakkuk 2:3). The time would come when many should run to and fro, or carefully investigate its meaning, and the knowledge of it should be increased (chap. Daniel 12:4). That time much nearer now in these last days. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3).

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Daniel 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/daniel-8.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile