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Daniel's vision of the ram and he-goat. The two thousand three hundred days of sacrifice. Gabriel comforteth Daniel, and interpreteth the vision.
Before Christ 553.
THIS chapter contains the vision of the ram and of the he-goat; or an account of the Persian and Grecian monarchies; the explanation of the vision by the angel Gabriel; the persecutions of the Jews in the profanation of their temple and removal of the daily sacrifice, and the continuance of the troubles for 2300 days, till the sanctuary should be cleansed; with a reference also to the persecutions and profanations of antichrist.
Daniel 8:1. In the third year of—king Belshazzar— This vision was about five hundred and fifty-three years before Christ. From chap. Dan 2:4 to this chapter, the prophesies are written in Chaldee. As they greatly concerned the Chaldeans, so they were published in that language. But the remaining prophesies are written in Hebrew, because they treat altogether of affairs subsequent to the time of the Chaldeans, and no ways relate to them, but principally to the church and people of God. See Bishop Newton's Dissertation, vol. 2: p. 1, &c.
Daniel 8:2. And I saw in a vision, &c.— Houbigant renders this very properly, And I saw myself in the vision to be by the river Ulai; for Daniel was at Shushan when he had this vision, wherein he imagined himself to be by the river Ulai; which divides Susiana from Elam, properly so called; though Elam is often taken in a larger sense, so as to comprehend Susiana.
Daniel 8:3. A ram which had two horns— In the former vision there appeared four beasts, because there four empires were represented; but here two only, because here we have a representation of what was transacted chiefly within two empires. The first of the four empires, that is, the Babylonian, is wholly omitted here; for its fate was sufficiently known, and it was now drawing very near to a conclusion. The second empire in the former vision, is the first in this; and what is there compared to a bear, is here prefigured by a ram. This ram had two horns, and, according to the explication of the angel Gabriel, Dan 8:20 it was the empire of the Medes and Persians. The source of this figure of horns for kingdoms, must be derived from the hieroglyphics of Egypt, from which most of the metaphors and figures in the oriental languages were originally derived; and in these languages, the same word signifies a horn, a crown, power, and splendour; whence a horn was an ensign of royalty among the Phoenicians; and the Hebrew word קרן keren, signifying a horn, is several times by the Chaldee rendered מלכותא malkuta, or a kingdom; and horns are frequently used for kings and kingdoms in the Old Testament. This empire therefore, which was formed by the conjunction of the Medes and Persians, was not unfitly represented by a ram with two horns. Cyrus, the founder of this empire, was the son of Cambyses king of Persia, and by his mother Mandane was grandson of Astyages king of Media: and afterwards, marrying the daughter and only child of his uncle Cyaxares, king of Media, he succeeded to both crowns, and united the kingdoms of Media and Persia. It was a coalition of two very formidable powers, and therefore it is said that the two horns were high; but one, it is added, was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. The kingdom of Media was the more ancient of the two, and more famous in history: Persia was of little note or account till the time of Cyrus; but under him the Persians gained and maintained the ascendant. But a question remains, why that empire, which was before likened to a bear for its cruelty, should now be represented by a ram? The propriety of it will appear, if we consider, that it was usual for the king of Persia to wear a ram's head made of gold, and set with precious stones, instead of a diadem. We may add that a ram's head with horns, one higher and the other lower, was the royal ensign of the Persians, and is still to be seen on the pillars of Persepolis. See Newton, vol. 2: p. 5. Bishop Chandler's Vindication, p. 154 and Dr. Sharpe's Sermon on the Rise and Fall of Jerusalem, p. 46 in the note.
Daniel 8:4. Pushing westward, and northward, and southward— Westward, that is, subduing Babylonia, Syria, and Asia Minor, under the reign of Cyrus, and extending to part of Greece under that of his successors, Darius the son of Hystaspes, and Xerxes. Northward; the same Darius, according to Herodotus and Justin, carried his arms into the territories of the Scythians, beyond the Caspian Sea; and the Lydians, Armenians, Cappadocians, Iberians, &c. were subject to Persia. Southward; the Persians extended their conquests over Arabia, India, Egypt, and Ethiopia, which last was entered by Cambyses the son and successor of Cyrus; and the Persian empire was very much enlarged and extended under the victorious arms of its first monarchs.
Daniel 8:5. An he-goat came from the west— This is interpreted Dan 8:21 to be the king, or kingdom of Grecia. A goat is very properly made the type of the Grecian or Macedonian empire, because the Macedonians at first, about two hundred years before Daniel, were denominated AEgeadae or the goat's people. The reason of their being so named is thus assigned. Caranus, their first king, going with a multitude of Greeks to seek new habitations in Macedonia, was commanded by the oracle to take the goats for his guides to empire; and afterwards seeing a herd of goats flying from a violent storm, he followed them to Edessa, and there fixed the seat of his empire, made the goats his ensigns or standards, and called the place AEge, or AEgea, that is to say, The Goat's Town, and the people, AEgeadae, or The Goat's People; names which allude to, and are derived from the Greek word αιξ [aix] a goat. To this may be added, that the city AEgae or AEge was the usual burying-place for the Macedonian kings. It is also remarkable, that Alexander's son by Roxana was named Alexander AEgus, or the son of the goat. Alexander himself ordered the statuaries to represent him with a horn upon his head, that he might appear to be the son of Jupiter Ammon; and some of Alexander's successors are represented in their coins with goat's horns. This he-goat came from the west; and who is ignorant that Europe lies westward of Asia? He came on the face of the whole earth, carrying every thing before him in all the three parts of the world then known. And he touched not the ground: his marches were so swift, and his conquests so rapid, that he might be said, in a manner, to fly over the whole earth without touching it. For the same reason, the same empire in chap. 7: was likened to a leopard, which is a swift noble animal; and, to denote the greater quickness and impetuosity, to a leopard with four wings. And the he-goat had a notable horn between his eyes. This horn, says the angel, is the first king, or kingdom, of the Greeks, in Asia, which was erected by Alexander the Great, and continued some years in his brother Philip Aridaeus, and his two young sons, Alexander AEgus, and Hercules. See Bishop Newton, p. 9, &c. Dr. Sharpe's Rise and Fall, &c. p. 47 and Prideaux's Connection, part 2: book 8: ann. 330.
Daniel 8:6-7. He came to the ram, &c.— In these two verses we have an account of the Grecians overthrowing the Persian empire. The ram had before, Daniel 8:4 pushed westward; and the Persians, in the reign of Darius Hystaspis and Xerxes, had poured down with great armies into Greece: but now the Greeks in return carried their arms into Asia, and the he-goat invaded the ram that had invaded him. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. We can hardly read these words without having some image of Darius's army standing and guarding the river Granicus, and of Alexander on the other side, with his forces plunging in, swimming across the stream, and rushing on the enemy with all the fire and fury which can be conceived. And I saw him close unto the ram: he had several close engagements or set battles with the king of Persia, and particularly at the Granicus in Phrygia, at the straits of Issus in Cilicia, and in the plains of Arbela in Assyria. And he was moved with choler against him, for the cruelties which the Persians had exercised against the Greeks, and for Darius's attempting sometimes to corrupt his soldiers to betray him, and sometimes his friends to destroy him; so that he would not listen to the most advantageous offers of peace, but determined to pursue the Persian king, not as a generous and noble enemy, but as a prisoner and a murderer, to the death which he deserved. And he smote the ram, and brake his two horns: he subdued Persia and Media, with other provinces and kingdoms of the Persian empire; and it is remarkable, that in Persia he barbarously sacked and burned the royal city of Persepolis, the capital of the empire; and in Media Darius was seized and made prisoner by some of his own treacherous subjects, who not long afterwards basely murdered him.—And there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: he conquered wherever he came; routed all their forces, took all the cities and castles, and intirely subverted and ruined the Persian empire. And there was none that could deliver him out of his hand; not even his numerous armies could defend the king of Persia, though his forces in the battle of Issus amounted to six hundred thousand men; and in that of Arbela, to ten or eleven hundred thousand; whereas the whole number of Alexander's was not more than forty-seven thousand in either engagement. See Bishop Newton, vol. 2: p. 13.
Daniel 8:8. The he-goat waxed very great, &c.— This the angel interprets, Daniel 8:22. The empire of the goat was in its full strength when Alexander died. He was succeeded by his natural brother Philip Aridaeus, and by his two sons, Alexander AEgus and Hercules; but in the space of about fifteen years they were all murdered, and the first horn or kingdom was intirely broken. The royal family being thus extinct, the governors of provinces, who had before usurped the power, usurped the title of kings, and by the defeat and death of Antigonus, in the battle of Issus, were reduced to four; Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus, who parted Alexander's dominions between them, and divided and settled them into four kingdoms. These four kingdoms are the four notable horns which came up in the room of the first great horn, and are the same as the four heads of the leopard, ch. 7. Four kingdoms shall stand up,—but not in his power: they were to be kingdoms of Greeks, not of Alexander's own family, but only of his nation: neither were they to be equal to him in power and dominion; as an empire united is certainly more powerful than the same divided, and the whole greater than any of its parts. They were likewise to extend towards the four winds of heaven; and in the partition of the empire Cassander held Macedon and Greece, and the western parts; Lysimachus had Thrace, Bithynia, and the northern regions: Ptolemy possessed Egypt, and the southern countries; and Seleucus obtained Syria, and the eastern provinces. See Bishop Newton, p. 27.
Daniel 8:9-12. Out of one of them came forth a little horn, &c.— There are two ways of expounding this prophesy of the little horn; either by understanding it with the generality of interpreters, both Jewish and Christian, ancient and modern, of Antiochus Epiphanes, and considering Antiochus as a type of antichrist; or by leaving him wholly out of the question, and seeking another application. Now a horn, in the style of Daniel, does not signify any particular king, but is an emblem of a kingdom; and the little horn, in the former chapter, did not signify a single person, but a succession of persons claiming such prerogatives and exerting such powers as are there specified. In this vision likewise the two horns of the ram do not represent two kings, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian, but the two kingdoms of Media and Persia; and for this plain reason, because the ram had all along two horns, even when he was attacked by the he-goat; but the two kingdoms of Media and Persia had been long united under one king. The horns of the he-goat prefigure not kings, but kingdoms. The first great horn does not typify Alexander himself, but the kingdom of Alexander, as long as the title continued united in him and his brother and two sons. The four horns which arose after the first was broken, are expressly said, Dan 8:22 to be four kingdoms; and consequently it should seem that the little horn cannot signify Antiochus Epiphanes, or any single king, but must denote some kingdom; by kingdom meaning, what the ancients meant thereby, any government, whether monarchy or republic, or of what form soever. Now what kingdom was there which rose up during the subsistence of the four kingdoms of the Grecian empire, and was advanced to any greatness and eminence, but the Roman?—The general character certainly is better adapted to the Romans than to any other; let us then consider the particular properties and actions of this little horn. Out of one of the four kingdoms came forth, &c. This was applicable to the Romans, who were a new and different power, who rose up from small beginnings, to be an exceeding great empire; who first subdued Macedon and Greece, the capital kingdom of the goat, and hence enlarged their conquests over the rest. In this vision the Roman empire is not designed at large, but only the Roman empire as a horn of the goat. When the Romans first got footing in Greece, then they became this horn of the goat; out of this horn they came, and were at first a little horn, but in process of time over-topped the other horns. From Greece they extended their arms, and overran the other parts of the goat's dominion; and their actions within the dominions of the goat, and not their affairs in the western empire, are the principal subject of this prophesy. This horn, though little at first, waxed exceeding great, &c. It was to rise up in the north-west parts of those nations which composed the body of the goat, and thence was to extend its dominion towards Egypt, Syria, and Judaea. He waxed great; and so did the Roman empire, even within the territories of the goat.—Toward the south; the Romans made Egypt a province of their empire, and kept possession of it for several centuries: Toward the east also the Romans grew very powerful; conquering and making Syria a province, which was the eastern kingdom of the goat. And toward the pleasant land; that is, Judaea; for so it is called Psalms 106:24. Jer 3:19 and ch. Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:41. The Romans conquered and subdued the Jews; first made a province of their country, and then destroyed their city and temple, and dispersed the people; so that after so fatal a fall, they have never hitherto been able to rise again. The remainder of the prophesy relate's chiefly to the persecution and oppression of the people of God. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven, &c. By the stars are meant the Jewish state in general, (the mighty and the holy people, Daniel 8:24.) or the priests and Levites in particular; who are called stars, as they were eminent for their station, and illustrious for their knowledge; and the host of heaven, as they watched and served in the temple, and their service is denominated a warfare. See Num 8:24 in the original. Our Saviour making use of the same expressions, Mat 24:29 in speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, this passage also may be more properly referred to that event. Yea, he magnified himself,—and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, &c. The Romans took away the daily sacrifice for many ages, and utterly destroyed the temple. The word עבא tsaba, translated host, Dan 8:12 is rendered in ch. Dan 10:1 and Job 7:1 an appointed time; accordingly, the verse may be read, An APPOINTED TIME was given against the daily sacrifice, &c. or, The last was given over for the transgressions against the daily sacrifice; and he cast down,—and he practised, &c. When the city of Jerusalem was besieged and taken by the Romans, the number of the captives amounted to 97,000, and of the slain to 1,100,000: and they carried their conquests and revenge so far, as to put an end to the government of the Jews, and entirely to take away their place and nation. See Bishop Newton, p. 3l, &c. Instead of pleasant land, at the end of the 9th verse, Houbigant reads the west, after the Arabic; denoting Judaea, which lay in the west of Asia.
Daniel 8:12. And an host was given him— Moreover, a ministry was delivered to him against, &c.—He cast the truth to the ground, and whatever he undertook, it prospered. Houbigant.
See commentary on Dan 8:9
Daniel 8:13. How long shall be the vision concerning, &c.— There is no word for concerning in this verse, which may be rendered more properly, For how long time shall the vision last, the daily sacrifice be taken away, and the transgression of desolation continue? After the same manner the question is translated in the LXX, Arabic, and Vulgate. See Bishop Newton.
Daniel 8:14. Unto two thousand and three hundred days— In the original, Unto two thousand and three hundred mornings and evenings; an evening and a morning being the Hebrew notation of time for a day. See Daniel 8:26. Now these 2300 days can by no computation be accommodated to the times of Antiochus Epiphanes, even though the days be taken for natural days. The days, without doubt, are to be taken, agreeably to the style of Daniel in other places, not for natural, but for prophetic days or years; and as the question was asked, not only how long the daily sacrifices should be taken away, and the transgression of desolation continue, but also how long the vision should last; so the answer is to be understood: and these 2300 days denote the whole time from the beginning of the vision to the cleansing of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is not yet cleansed, and consequently these years are not expired. It is difficult to fix the precise time when the prophetic dates begin and end, till the prophesies are fulfilled: but it appears to me that the 2300 days should be computed from the vision of the he-goat, or Alexander's invading Asia. Alexander invaded Asia in the year of the world 3670 (according to the common calculation, which may in some degree be erroneous), and before Christ 334. Two thousand and three hundred years from that time will draw towards the conclusion of the sixth millennium of the world. See Bishop Newton. But I shall speak more on this subject when we come to the Revelation.
Daniel 8:17. For at the time of the end, &c.— For the vision shall have an end at its proper time. Houbigant; and so Daniel 8:19.
Daniel 8:19. In the last end— Even unto the end, or, in the latter time. Daniel 8:21. The king of Grecia] Rather, the kingdom, and so at Daniel 8:20. Hebrew יון iavan, from Javan the son of Japheth, Genesis 10:2. The whole states of Greece were sometimes called Iones, and the sea which washes their borders is the Ionian sea. Yet there seems to have been a distinction made by the Hebrews between the Peloponnesian and the Ionian Greece; but Macedonia certainly belonged to the latter; and Alexander might with the greatest propriety be styled the first king of Ion, as he was the first and chief who subdued the Medo-Persic, and established the Grecian empire.
Daniel 8:22. Four kingdoms shall stand up, &c.— Does not this imply that the remaining kingdom, the kingdom of the little horn, should not be of the nation? Newton, p. 33. Houbigant reads, Four kingdoms shall arise out of this nation, but not of so great power.
Daniel 8:23. In the latter time, &c.— The Romans might be said to stand up in the latter time, &c. who saw the end not only of one kingdom, but of all four; who first subdued the kingdom of Macedon and Greece; then inherited, by the will of Attalus, the kingdom of Lysimachus; and afterwards made a province of the kingdom of Syria; and lastly, of the kingdom of Egypt. When the Romans stood up too, the transgressions were come to the full; for the high-priesthood was exposed to sale: good Onias was ejected for a sum of money, to make room for wicked Jason, and Jason again was supplanted for a greater sum of money by a worse man, if possible, than himself,—his brother Menelaus; and the golden vessels of the temple were sold to pay for the sacrilegious purchase. At the same time the customs of the heathens were introduced, the youth were trained up and exercised after the manner of the Greeks; and the people, and even the priests, apostatized from the true religion. See 2Ma 4:14. Nay, Jerusalem was taken by Antiochus, 40,000 Jews were slain, and as many were sold into slavery; the temple was profaned, even under the conduct of the high-priest Menelaus, was defiled with swine's blood, and plundered of every thing valuable: and in the same year that Paulus AEmilius, the Roman consul, vanquished Perseus, the last king of the Macedonians, and thereby put an end to that kingdom, the Jewish religion was put down, and the heathen worship set up in the cities of Judaea and Jerusalem; the temple itself was consecrated to Jupiter Olympius, and his image was erected upon the very altar. Then indeed the transgressions were come to the full. See Bishop Newton.
A king of fierce countenance— A king, in the prophetic style, is the same as kingdom. Instead of understanding dark sentences, the Syriac translates skilful of ruling, and the Arabic, skilful of disputations. We may suppose the meaning to be, that this should be a politic and artful, as well as a formidable power; which properly characterizes the Romans. They were represented in the former vision by a beast dreadful and terrible; and for the same reason they are here signified by a king of fierce countenance. Whether this character belongs to the Romans, or to Antiochus Epiphanes, may be collected from the following narrative. Antiochus was engaged in a war with Egypt, and in a fair way of making himself master of it. The Romans, therefore, looking upon his increasing power with a jealous eye, sent an embassy to him, to require him to desist from his enterprize, or else to declare against him. Popilius, the chief of the ambassadors, had formerly been his friend; and the king, at their first meeting near Alexandria, offered him his hand, in remembrance of their former friendship. This Popilius declined, saying, that private friendship must give place to the public welfare, and he must first know whether the king was a friend to the Roman state, before he could acknowledge him as a friend to himself: he then presented to him the tables, which contained the decree of the senate, and desired an immediate answer. Antiochus, after reading them, replied, that he would communicate them to his friends, and return him an answer very speedily; but Popilius, with a wand which he carried in his hand, drew a circle round the king, and insisted upon his answer before he stirred out of that circle. The king, astonished at this peremptory manner of proceeding, after some hesitation, said he would obey the commands of the senate; and then at length Popilius reached forth his hand to him. This incident happened soon after the conquest of Macedonia; and being the first memorable action of the Romans immediately on their becoming a horn of the kingdom of the goat, it is very fitly said of them, and more fitly than of Antiochus, A king of fierce countenance shall stand up. See Bishop Newton.
Daniel 8:24. His power shall be mighty, &c.— This part of the prophesy can no where be so justly applied as to the Romans. With them it quadrates exactly, and with none of the other horns or kingdoms of the goat. The strength of the other kingdoms consisted in themselves, and had its foundation in some part of the goat: but the Roman empire, as a horn, or kingdom of the goat, was not mighty by its own power, was not strong by virtue of the goat; but drew its nourishment and strength from Rome and Italy. There grew the trunk and body of the tree, though the branches extended over Greece, Asia, Syria, and Egypt. See Bishop Newton.
Daniel 8:25. He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes— If by the prince of princes, the high-priest be meant, the Romans abolished the whole administration of that priesthood. If the Messiah be meant, it was effected by the Romans. It was indeed by the malice of the Jews, but by the authority of the Romans, that he was put to death; and he suffered the punishment of the Roman malefactors and slaves. And indeed it is very worthy of our consideration, whether this part of the prophesy be not a sketch of the fate and sufferings of the Christian, as well as of the Jewish church. Nothing is more usual with the prophets than to describe the religion and worship of later times, by figures borrowed from their own religion. The Christians may full as well as the Jews be comprehended under the name of holy people, or people of the holy ones. The Romans not only crucified our Saviour, but also persecuted his disciples for above three centuries; and when at length they embraced the Christian religion, they soon corrupted it; so that it may be questioned, whether their favour was not as hurtful to the church as their enmity. As the power of the Roman emperors declines, that of the Roman pontiff increased: and may it not with equal truth and justice be said of the latter, as of the former, that they cast down the truth to the ground? How applicable in this sense is every part of the angel's interpretation, in this and the two former verses! and this farther opens and explains the appellations of the little horn. The persecuting power of Rome, whether exercised towards the Jews, or towards the Christians, by the emperors, or by the popes, is still the little horn. Their tyranny is the same; but as exerted in Greece and the east, it is the little horn of the he-goat, or the third empire; as exerted in Italy and the west, it is the little horn of the fourth beast, or the fourth empire. See Bishop Newton.
He shall be broken without hand— As the stone, in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, was cut out of the mountain without hands; that is to say, not by human but by supernatural means; so the little horn, shall be broken without hand; shall not die the common death; nor fall by the hand of men, but perish by a stroke from heaven. And this agrees perfectly with the former predictions of the fatal catastrophe of the Romans, chap. Daniel 2:34; Daniel 7:11; Daniel 7:26. All which implies, that the dominion of the Romans shall finally be destroyed by some extraordinary manifestation of the divine power. By thus retracing the particulars of this remarkable prophesy, it appears, that though some of them agree very well with Antiochus Epiphanes, yet others can by no means be reconciled to him; but they all agree and correspond exactly with the Romans, and with none else; so that the application of the character to them must be the right application. See Bishop Newton.
Daniel 8:26. Shut thou up the vision, &c.— This shutting up of the vision implies, that it should not be understood for some time. The vision being for many days, must necessarily infer a longer term than the calamity under Antiochus, of three years and a half, or even than the whole time from the first beginning of the vision in Cyrus, to the cleansing of the sanctuary under Antiochus, which was not above three hundred and seventy-one years. Such a vision could not well be called long by Daniel, who had seen so much longer before; and especially as the time assigned for it, Dan 8:14 is two thousand three hundred days; which, since they cannot by any account be natural days, must needs be prophetic days, or two thousand and three hundred years. Such a vision may properly enough be said to be for many days. See Bishop Newton.
Daniel 8:27. I Daniel fainted— Daniel's sickness proceeded from his grief for his religion and country; as in the former vision he was grieved at the success of the little horn, there described. And this is another conclusive argument, that the calamities under Antiochus Epiphanes could not possibly be the main end and ultimate scope of this prophesy, for the calamities under Antiochus were of small extent, and of short duration, in comparison with what the nation had suffered, and was then suffering, under Nebuchadnezzar and his successors. Present and sensible evils usually affect us most; and therefore, that Daniel was so much more affected with the future than the present,—was astonished, and fainted, and was sick certain days, can be ascribed to nothing but his foreseeing that the future distress and misery of the nation would greatly exceed all that they endured at present. But the calamities under Antiochus, as we observed above, were much less and much shorter. Those only which they suffered from the Romans were greater and worse than the evils brought on them by Nebuchadnezzar; and the transgression of desolation has now continued above seventeen hundred years. They expect, and we expect, that at length the sanctuary will be cleansed, and that in God's time his promise in Amo 9:11-12 and Act 15:16-17 will be fully accomplished. This concern of Daniel, and affection for his religion and country, shew him in a very amiable light, and give an additional lustre to his character. But not only in this instance, but in every other, he manifests the same public spirit, and appears no less eminently a patriot than a prophet. Though he was torn early from his country, and enjoyed all the advantages that he could enjoy in a foreign service, yet nothing could make him forget his native home: and in the next chapter we see him pouring out his soul in prayer, and supplicating most earnestly and devoutly for the pardon and restoration of his captive nation. See Bishop Newton. Houbigant renders the last clause, But I was silent, and astonished, nobody understanding that I was so affected on account of the vision.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, This second vision is dated, in the third year of Belshazzar's reign. The scene is laid in Shushan, which was one of the royal palaces of the kings of Persia by the river Ulai.
1. The prophet saw a ram, the emblem of the second monarchy, having two very high horns, the nations of Medes and Persians; and one horn, which rose the last, was higher than the other, the Persians under Cyrus taking the lead, though at first inferior to the Medes. This animal seemed to push furiously, westward, northward, and southward, extending his conquests on every side, none of the nations being able to stand before him; so that he did as he pleased, and became great, rose to universal empire. But such is the perishing nature of all sublunary things, that the seeds of corruption and ruin are ripening when a nation's outward prosperity seems most established; for,
2. A he-goat attacks and overcomes the ram. This represents the Grecian monarchy under Alexander: he came from the west, from Macedon, on the face of the whole earth, sweeping it with his victorious arms, and weeping, it is said, that he had not another world to conquer: and he touched not the ground; so rapid were his marches, that he rather seemed to fly than walk; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes, descriptive of Alexander, the first founder of the monarchy; so eminent a conqueror, so sagacious a general, and attended by his father's wisest counsellors. He came to the ram that had two horns, the Persian monarch Darius Codomannus, then in possession of the kingdom, and ran unto him in the fury of his power, eager to engage, and furious in the attack that he made; highly exasperated by the message of contempt which Darius had sent him, he came close to the ram, joined battle with him, and smote him in three general engagements, at the Granicus, at Issus, and at Arbela; and brake his two horns, overthrew his armies; and so entirely destroyed the force of the Persian empire, that there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and stamped upon him, quite subdued the whole kingdom of Persia; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand, his allies all falling with him. Thus the he-goat waxed very great; the Grecian monarchy being established through the greatest part of the then known world.
3. In this flourishing state of the new empire, a sudden stroke divides it into four parts. The great horn was broken: Alexander, at thirty-two or three years of age, was cut off suddenly, by a drunken debauch, as some say; or by poison, as others; and for it, in his room, came up four notable ones, his four captains, who divided his dominions among them, see chap. Dan 7:6 toward the four winds; see the annotations. Note; Many take great pains, while others reap the fruit of their labours.
4. The principal thing intended in the vision, as what more immediately concerned the Jewish people, is the little horn coming out of these kingdoms. But I have enlarged so much in my annotations on this point, that I shall refer my readers to them.
2nd, The vision that he had seen excited in the prophet a great desire to know the meaning of it; and whilst in his own mind he pondered on what he had seen and heard, God graciously orders one of his angels to explain the particulars to him. Note; When, in God's appointed ways, we are earnestly desiring to know his mind and will, he will enlighten our minds, and lead us in the right way. We have,
1. The deep impression made on Daniel by the approach of the heavenly messenger. Overpowered with his glory, he trembled, and fell at his feet as in a swoon, and a deep sleep came upon him. The spirit is sometimes willing, when the flesh is weak.
2. The angel gently raised him from the dust, and set him on his feet, bidding him attend to and understand the explication he was about to give concerning what shall be in the last end of the indignation; for at the time of the end shall be the vision, or the vision shall have an end at its proper time; when the troubles of God's people should cease, and his indignation be removed from them, at the time appointed. Note; All the sufferings of God's faithful people have their bounds and limits, and by faith and patience they shall be enabled with comfort to see their end.
3. He gives the interpretation of the vision, mentioned before, Daniel 8:3-14. But see the annotations.
Lastly, The vision left a deep impression upon him. He fainted on the view of the terrible sufferings that his people were to endure, and he was sick certain days, could not recover from the distress into which the vision had thrown him. Afterward I rose up, from his bed, to which he had been confined, and did the king's business, according to the duty of his place; and I was astonished at the vision, at the awful contents of it; but none understood it; he either kept the whole quite a secret, or, if he told the vision, he mentioned not the interpretation, shutting it up as he was commanded. Note; (1.) The distress of God's people cannot but deeply affect every gracious soul. (2.) Our grief must never be so inordinate as to disable us from the duties of our station.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Daniel 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany