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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 8

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Daniel 8:0


Vision of a Ram and a GoatThe Vision of the Ram and the Male GoatDaniel's Vision of a Ram and a GoatDaniel's Vision: the Ram and the Goat
Daniel 8:1-8Daniel 8:1-4Daniel 8:1-4Daniel 8:1-4
Daniel 8:5-8Daniel 8:5-7Daniel 8:5-8
Daniel 8:8-12
Daniel 8:9-12Daniel 8:9-14 Daniel 8:9-12
Daniel 8:13-14 Daniel 8:13Daniel 8:13-14
Daniel 8:14
Gabriel Interprets the Vision The Angel Gabriel Explains the VisionThe Angel Gabriel Interprets the Vision
Daniel 8:15-22Daniel 8:15-17Daniel 8:15-17aDaniel 8:15-26
Daniel 8:17-19
Daniel 8:18-26
Daniel 8:20-22
Daniel 8:23-26 Daniel 8:23-26
Daniel 8:27Daniel 8:27Daniel 8:27Daniel 8:27

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Chapters 2, 7 and 8 of Daniel are related as they reveal a sequence of four coming kingdoms and a fifth eternal divine kingdom.

Chapter 2Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 11
1. gold2. silver3. bronze 4. iron/clay 5. stone(Messianic) winged lionbearwinged leopard fierce beast(little horn)Son of Man(Messianic)-----ramgoat (little horn) ---------------Daniel 9:24-27Maccabean (?) Daniel 9:24-27(end-time antichrist) (?) ---------------Daniel 11:1-35, Daniel 11:40-45Seleucids & Ptolemies Daniel 11:36-39 (end-time antichrist) -----

B. Several of the kingdoms are specifically identified

1. Neo-Babylonian, Daniel 2:38

2. Medo-Persia, Daniel 8:20

3. Greece, Daniel 8:21

4. Rome, Daniel 2:44, Daniel 2:45

5. The Eternal Kingdom of God, Daniel 2:35, Daniel 2:44-45; Daniel 7:9-10, Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:22, Daniel 7:27

C. As in his first vision Daniel was compelled to focus on the fourth kingdom; two years later (compare Daniel 8:1 with 8:1) God revealed information about the second and third kingdoms in another vision.

The little horn of the third kingdom is focused on because it (he) will impact the lives and worship of Israel more than any other previous one. The little horn of the fourth kingdom will also impact God's people (i.e., end-time Antichrist, cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:0).

D. The language has switched back to Hebrew because Daniel 8-12 are messages for God's people. This vision is primarily about the future suffering and domination caused by the little horn against Israel. For them the vision is about a limited time of suffering and desecration followed by a divine intervention. The twenty-three hundred evenings and mornings (cf. Daniel 8:14) were a sure promise of the deliverance and restoration of the temple/Jerusalem.

E. The book by D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic, has been very helpful and I recommend it to all who attempt to understand Daniel 7-12.

The other book that has been so helpful in understanding the different genres of the Bible is How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart.

As interpreters our worst enemies are:

1. western culture and evangelical Christianity's over-emphasis on literalism

2. a systematic eschatology (usually personally unexamined), which has been given to us by sincere, godly, well-meaning parents, pastors, denominations, and authors.

F. Satan does not know God's plans; therefore, he must have an anti-God leader prepared and active in every age (cf. 1 John 2:18) to carry out his bidding. Antiochus is one example of a selfish, self-centered, atheistic individual who wants, not only political and military power, but also adoration, even worship, and there have been many others throughout human history like him. Fallen humanity regularly produces this type of individual. Yet, God is still sovereign and He even uses these kinds of persons to accomplish His will, as He does Satan.

G. As is typical of Hebrew literature, a general account (Daniel 7:0) is followed by a more detailed description of one particular aspect (e.g., Daniel 8:3 vs. 2:4-25).

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Daniel 8:1-4 1”In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously. 2I looked in the vision, and while I was looking I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal. 3Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last. 4I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and magnified himself.”

Daniel 8:1 “In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar” This shows that the vision of chapter 8 came after a time span of two years from the vision of chapter 7. We do not know when or how long Belshazzar served as co-regent under his father, Nabonidus, before the fall of the Neo-Babylon Empire by the army of Cyrus II, Cyrus the Great (cf. Daniel 5:0). Chapter 8 restarts the Hebrew section of the Book of Daniel (i.e., Daniel 1:1-3; Daniel 8:1-13).

NASB“previously” NKJV“the first time” NRSV“at first” TEV“I saw a second vision” NJB“originally”

This is literally “at the first” (BDB 321, e.g., Daniel 9:21; Genesis 13:3; 2 Samuel 21:9, 2 Samuel 21:10; 2 Kings 17:25; Nehemiah 11:17), which is idiomatic for the vision Daniel received earlier in Belshazzar's reign (i.e., Daniel 7:0).

Daniel 8:2 “I was in the citadel of Susa” Susa later became the capitol of the kingdom of Persia (cf. Nehemiah 1:1); but at this time it was simply a large, fortified city in the province of Elam (i.e., east of the Tigris River, cf. Isaiah 22:6; Jeremiah 49:34-39). It would later be called Shushan (cf. Nehemiah 1:1; Esther 1:2, Esther 1:5). The Greek name was Susa.

Was Daniel physically in Susa, or was this part of the vision? He could have been in Susa on governmental business (cf. Daniel 8:27). There seems to be no integral part of the vision linked to this locality.

Several visions in the Bible involve some type of mental or physical transport.

1. Ezekiel, from Babylon, to the temple in Jerusalem, Ezekiel 8:0 (cf. Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 11:1; Ezekiel 43:5)

2. Philip, in Gaza, taken to Azotus, Acts 8:39-40

3. John, on Patmos, taken to heaven, Revelation 4:2 (cf. Revelation 17:3; Revelation 21:10)

“I looked in the vision, and I myself was” Daniel sees himself in his vision for the first time.

“Ulai Canal” This was a 900 foot wide irrigation canal north of the city (BDB 19 I), which connected two rivers. The ancient versions in Greek, Aramaic, and Latin translate this rare Hebrew word “canal” or “river” (BDB 385) as “Ulai gate,” which would affect the translation of Daniel 8:16.

Daniel 8:3 “a ram which had two horns” This seems to refer to Medo-Persia (cf. Daniel 8:20) and is analogous to the bear with one side lifted of Daniel 7:0 and the breast and arms of silver in chapter 2.

The horns are described by several features.

1. two horns

2. one longer than the other

3. the longer one came up after the other was in place

They probably represent the historical fact that Cyrus (1/2 Median) first conquered Media and then later became the king of Persia after the fall of Babylon. The two horns may also be parallel to the bear of chapter 7, raised on one side (showing the dominant kingdom of Persia in the Medo-Persian Empire (cf. Daniel 8:20).

Daniel 8:4 “I saw the ram butting westward, northward and southward “ Many use this as parallel to the three ribs in the bear's mouth, Daniel 7:5, to describe the three directions of Medo-Persian conquest.

“nor was there anyone to rescue from his power; but he did as he pleased and magnified himself There are several aspects to this phrase that characterize the arrogance of these Gentile kings and kingdoms (cf. Daniel 8:8, Daniel 8:11, Daniel 8:25).

1. They thought no nation, army or god could thwart their desires (cf. Daniel 2:21).

2. The essence of human rebellion is “I did it my way” (“he did as he pleased,” Daniel 8:4).

3. The king magnified himself (like the little horns of chapters 7 and 8), which attracts God's notice and judgment (this phrase could be understood as relating to the power and size of his kingdom as in Daniel 8:9, but this Hebrew word (BDB 152) has a negative connotation in this chapter).

4. He did as he pleased, which is a recurrent theme (cf. Daniel 5:19; Daniel 11:3, Daniel 11:16, Daniel 11:36-37).

This prediction is a good place to remind all interpreters of the fuzzy nature of apocalyptic literature. The details are often for effect, not literal fulfillment (cf. D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares & Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic, pp. 117-128). In fact, Greece did repel Persia's advance several times (490 B.C. and 480 B.C.). Apocalyptic literature cannot be interpreted or evaluated by the details. Often, which of the details have significance can only be known after the fulfillment in history!

Verses 5-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Daniel 8:5-8 5”While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6He came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. 7I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. 8Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.”

Daniel 8:5 “a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground” This refers to Greece (cf. Daniel 8:21; Daniel 11:3). Notice the speed of the victory (334-331 B.C.) and direction from which Alexander III, known as Alexander the Great, came. This parallels the leopard with four wings of Daniel 7:6.

“the surface of the whole earth” This is a hyperbolic statement which refers to the known world of the day.

“a conspicuous horn between his eyes” This refers to Alexander III, known as Alexander the Great, who conquered the whole known world and died at the age of 32 (cf. Daniel 8:8, Daniel 8:21-22; Daniel 11:4).

The term “conspicuous” (BDB 303) is very similar to the term “vision” (BDB 302) in Daniel 8:1. In Isaiah it is used for a vision or oracle several times (cf. Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 29:11). It means “conspicuous” only in this context (Daniel 8:5, Daniel 8:8).

Daniel 8:6-7 “rushed at him in his mighty wrath. . .and he was enraged at him” We know that Persia, under Darius III, attacked Greece several times over the Hellespont (490 and 480 B.C.). This made Greece so angry that when Alexander finally crossed this narrow gap of water in 334 B.C. with thirty thousand soldiers and five thousand cavalry, he engaged the Persian army with over 600,000 soldiers and soundly defeated them several different times. Alexander would not make a peace treaty with Persia!

If one reads Daniel 8:0 alone, he would expect one decisive battle, but in fact, there were three major decisive battles. The prediction is true, but fuzzy (as are all apocalyptic details, see note at Daniel 8:4).

Daniel 8:8 “the male goat magnified himself exceedingly” See note at Daniel 8:4, Daniel 8:5.

“the large horn was broken and in its place came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven” This refers to the death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.) in Babylon at the age of 32 or 33 caused by swamp fever. The unexpected, sudden death of Alexander caused great and prolonged conflict throughout his kingdom. The governors or generals who were dominant as separate regional satraps throughout his kingdom continued to maintain their control.

1. Antigonus in Asia

2. Demetrius in Greece

3. Ptolemy in Egypt

4. Cassander in Macedonia

5. Lysimachus in Thrace

6. Zipoetes in Bithynia

7. Mithradates in Pontus

8. Seleucus in Syria/Babylon

Of these eight power centers, Numbers 1:3, and 8 became dominant.

I agree with E. J. Young that the “four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven” may be an idiom of universal rule not relating specifically to any four generals. Apocalyptic literature is designed to give an emotional general impression, not detailed facts of history.

Verses 9-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Daniel 8:9-14 9”Out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land. 10It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. 11It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. 12And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper. 13Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?' 14He said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.'“

Daniel 8:9 “a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east and toward the Beautiful land” This refers to the fourth Seleucid ruler known as Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.). We learn from history that he gained, through craftiness (cf. Daniel 8:24), a rather extensive kingdom and was especially a problem to the Jewish people of Palestine (i.e. “the beautiful land,” cf. Daniel 11:16, Daniel 11:41).

The Hebrew term gdl (BDB 152, Qal IMPERFECT) appears in Daniel 8:8, Daniel 8:9, Daniel 8:10-11. In 8:8 it means “magnified himself”; in Daniel 8:9 it means “grew exceedingly great,” as it does metaphorically in Daniel 8:10, “it grew great.” It is obvious that at least two senses are possible.

1. arrogance, Daniel 8:8, Daniel 8:10, Daniel 8:11

2. size, extent, Daniel 8:9-10

It is hard to know which is the intent of the original author.

Daniel 8:10 “to the host of heaven” The PREPOSITION “to” is translated in poetry as “as far as,” “even to,” or “up to” (cf. Daniel 8:11).

The term “host” often applies to YHWH”s angelic army (TEV, cf. Joshua 5:14, Joshua 5:15; 1 Samuel 1:3; Nehemiah 9:6), but in this context (cf. Daniel 8:12) it refers to (1) the people of God (“saints,” cf. Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:22, Daniel 7:27) or (2) a metaphor for the little horn's ambition to rival God (e.g., Isaiah 14:13, the kings of Babylon), in which case the stars would refer to angels or heaven.

It is problematic that in the span of four verses this term (BDB 838) is used in several senses.

1. “the host of heaven,” Daniel 8:10 (faithful believers or angels)

2. “the commander of the host,” Daniel 8:11 (angels)

3. “the host,” Daniel 8:12 (believers)

4. “the host,” Daniel 8:13 (believers or temple worshipers and temple servants)

Here is where context is crucial. Hebrew, being such an ancient language, uses terms in several ways (semantic field). Our problem as modern interpreters is that we demand specific historically verifiable details and consistent, lexical usage. The genre and our distance in time from the actual events make these demands impossible. This is a faith document, not a history book!

“and some of the stars to fall to the earth” Usually in Jewish extra-biblical apocalyptic literature falling stars refer to angels coming to earth, but in this context “stars” is a parallel to “hosts” (the people of God, cf. Daniel 8:24a; Daniel 12:3); therefore, this idiom is referring to the earlier promises of God that Israel will be like the stars of heaven (in number, cf. Genesis 15:5; Jeremiah 33:22; in glory, cf. Daniel 12:3).

This verse refers to the little horn of the third kingdom attacking God's people, as did the little horn of the fourth kingdom in Daniel 7:21, Daniel 7:25. There is an anti-God force loose in creation. It can be identified by its attack on God's Messiah and God's people!

Daniel 8:11 “It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host” One characteristic of these Gentile kings has been their arrogance. The influence of the fall (cf. Genesis 3:0) continues!

The phrase “to be equal” is the same PREPOSITION as “up to the hosts” in Daniel 8:10.

“The Commander” is the Hebrew word (BDB 978) for “chief,” “ruler,” “official,” “captain,” or “prince.” This could refer to:

1. YHWH, Daniel 8:25

2. Son of Man, possibly Daniel 8:25; Daniel 7:13-14

3. a powerful angel, Daniel 8:13; Daniel 10:1-9; or Michael, Israel's national angel, Daniel 10:13,31; Daniel 12:1

The next few phrases seem to imply either #1 or #2.

“it removed the regular sacrifice from Him and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down” This seems to refer to something involving the daily morning and evening sacrifices in the temple ritual called “the continual” (cf. Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:1-8). This daily ritual was stopped (“removed,” BDB 926, KB 1202, Hophal PERFECT; the second VERB BDB 1020, KB 1527, may refer to the same event) by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and he further defiled the temple by regularly offering a swine on the altar and placing an image of Zeus in the Holy Place (cf. Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11). Antiochus tried to Hellenize the Jews (cf. I Macc. 1.54-61; II Macc. 4.11-6.11) by forcing them to eat the flesh of swine. This caused the rebellion of the priest of Moden, whose son, Judas Maccabees, through an extended guerilla warfare, finally succeeded in defeating the Seleucid army and, in 165 B.C., cleansed and restored the temple. In modern times, this is known as the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) , and is celebrated in December (the date changes each year because the Jews use a lunar calendar).

Daniel 8:12 “on account of transgression” Some see this as: (1) the sins of the Jewish people (cf. Daniel 9:24) which God allowed to be punished by a foreign leader (cf. Isaiah 10:5; Jeremiah 51:20); (2) the sins of Jewish leadership which helped Antiochus; or more probably in this context (3) Antiochus IV Epiphanes' sin (cf. Daniel 8:13, Daniel 8:23).

“the host” This seems to refer to the people of God. See note at Daniel 8:10.

“the regular sacrifice” See note at Daniel 8:11.

“it will fling truth to the ground” The same VERB (BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil IMPERFECT) appears in v. Daniel 8:11 and in Ezekiel 19:12, but the concept is expressed in Isaiah 59:14. In general it refers to the worship of God or the word of God.

“perform its will and prosper” This refers to fallen humanity's independent attitude, which is a recurrent theme in Daniel (cf. Daniel 5:19; Daniel 8:4; Daniel 11:3, Daniel 11:16, Daniel 11:36).

Daniel 8:13 “I heard a holy one” This is translated “saint” in Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:21, Daniel 7:22, Daniel 7:25 and refers to faithful believers. Here it must refer to the conversation between two angels (cf. possibly Daniel 7:27) for Daniel's benefit. Other OT titles for angels are (1) “sons of God” (cf. Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 38:7; Psalms 29:1; Psalms 89:6-7); (2) “holy ones” (cf. Daniel 4:13; Psalms 89:5, Psalms 89:7; Zechariah 14:5); (3) “watchers” (cf. Daniel 4:13, Daniel 4:17, Daniel 4:23); (4) sometimes “man” or “men” (cf. Daniel 8:15, Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:20; Daniel 10:5, Daniel 10:16, Daniel 10:18; Daniel 12:6-7; Zechariah 1:8, Zechariah 1:10, Zechariah 1:19; Zechariah 2:1, Zechariah 2:3).

“How long” This does not refer to Jeremiah's prophecy about a seventy year exile (cf. Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 25:11, Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 29:10; Zechariah 7:5). It is connected to the “little horn” of the third empire (i.e. Greece, cf. Daniel 8:21), which is being discussed in Daniel 8:9-14. Therefore, this time frame is related to the atrocities of Antiochus IV (175-164 B.C.), who desecrated the temple and attempted to force individual, faithful Jews to become Hellenists.

The TEV translates this so that the three aspects of the question stand out.

1. How long will these things that were seen in the vision continue?

2. How long will an awful sin replace the daily sacrifices?

3. How long will the army of heaven and the Temple be trampled on?

H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, p. 352, says that the Hebrew text has four items in apposition to “vision.”

1. the regular daily offerings

2. the crime-causing horror

3. the sanctuary to be trodden under foot

4. the host to be trodden under foot

NASB“while the transgression causes horror” NKJV“the transgression of desolation” NRSV“the transgression that makes desolate” TEV“the awful sin” NJB“of horrifying iniquity”

This probably refers to the idol of Zeus Olympius, that Antiochus placed in the temple (II Maccabees 6:2). This VERB, “makes desolate” (BDB 1030, KB 1563, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) may be a word play from the Canaanite deity, Ba'al Shamem (“Lord of Heaven”), because “heaven” has the same consonants as “makes desolate.” Zeus was the Greek counterpart of Ba'al.

This same phrase appears in Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; and Daniel 12:11. It refers to different atrocities, but all are connected by rebellion against God and His people. In the Bible it can refer to (1) Antiochus IV; (2) Titus' destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70; and (3) the end-time antiChrist (the book of Revelation). It is obviously a multiple fulfillment prophecy.

Daniel 8:14 “For 2,300 hundred evenings and mornings” This phrase has been interpreted in two ways: (1) 2300 full days (E. J. Young, pp. 173-175) or (2) a number equivalent to three and a half years that seems to follow the usage in Genesis 1:0 (“evenings and mornings”) and the phrase related to persecution in Daniel 7:25. Context favors #2 because of the use of a similar period of time in Daniel and Revelation. See note at Daniel 7:25.

Differing commentators choose one or the other. I like #2, but H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, p. 355, quotes a German commentator, Meinhold (1889), “. . .an entirely satisfactory computation has neither been found here nor for the kindred periods in chapters nine and twelve.” The problem is that we forget that this is apocalyptic/prophetic literature, not history.

NASB“the Holy Place will be properly restored” NKJV“the sanctuary shall be cleansed” NRSV“the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state” TEV“the Temple will be restored” NJB“the sanctuary will have its rights restored”

This VERB, Niphal PASSIVE (BDB 842) is used in this form only here in the OT. The basic meaning is “to be made just or righteous,” so here it would imply, “shall be put in right or properly pure condition.” December 12, 165 B.C. was the date of the cleansing and restoration of the temple in Jerusalem by Judas Maccabeus. See note at Daniel 8:11.

Verses 15-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Daniel 8:15-17 15 “When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man. 16And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, ‘Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.' 17So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, 'Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.'“

Daniel 8:15 “'I sought to understand'“ As the Gentile kings needed Daniel's God-given gift to understand their dreams, so Daniel needs heavenly beings to help him. Angelic mediation and interpretation is one of the characteristics of apocalyptic literature. Humans cannot discover truth. It must be revealed!

“who looked like a man” This is the Hebrew word gbr, (BDB 149) which makes up Gabriel's name. This has nothing to do with Daniel 7:13. Angels often appear in human form (cf. Zechariah 1:8, Zechariah 1:10; Zechariah 2:1, Zechariah 2:4). This does not describe their true essence, simply how they appear to us. See note at Daniel 8:13.

Daniel 8:16 “Gabriel” Only two angels are named in the Bible, Gabriel and Michael. Michael is called the Archangel of Israel (cf. Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; Jude 1:9), while Gabriel seems to be God's messenger angel (cf. Daniel 9:21; Luke 1:19, Luke 1:26). His name means “man of God” or “strong man of God” (BDB 150).

Daniel 8:17 “'I was frightened and fell on my face'“ Humans are shocked at the presence and awesomeness of the spiritual realm.

1. God, Genesis 17:3; Job 13:11, Job 13:21; Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 3:23; Ezekiel 44:4

2. angels, Daniel 8:17; Daniel 10:9, Daniel 10:10, Daniel 10:12, Daniel 10:15, Daniel 10:19; Revelation 1:17

3. visions, Job 7:14 (Daniel 4:13-14); Daniel 7:28; Daniel 8:27

“Son of man” Here “man” simply refers to Daniel as a human being (Adam, cf. Daniel 8:16), as in Ezekiel 2:1; Ezekiel 3:1; Ezekiel 4:1; Ezekiel 5:1; Ezekiel 6:2; Ezekiel 7:2; Ezekiel 12:2, Ezekiel 12:8; and Psalms 8:4. The angel Gabriel is addressing Daniel.

“understand” This is a Hiphil IMPERATIVE (BDB 106, KB 122), as it is in Daniel 8:16 (cf. John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, vol. 4, p. 737). Gabriel is commanded by the man above the Ulai (i.e., an angel) to help Daniel understand the conversation (cf. Daniel 8:15), spoken in the dialogue between the two holy ones (i.e., angels) in Daniel 8:13-14.

“the vision pertains to the time of the end” This vision seems to refer not to the far future, but the relatively near future (i.e., Empires of Persia and Greece). This should give modern interpreters a warning about trying to define the phrase “the time of the end” (cf. Daniel 8:19) as always eschatological. In Daniel 11:40 “the end time” is used of the period of Greek rule involving the kingdoms of the Ptolomies and Seleucids (323-165 B.C.).

Verses 18-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Daniel 8:18-26 18”Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright. 19He said, 'Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of the indignation, for it pertains to the appointed time of the end. 20The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. 22The broken horn and the four horns that arose in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power. 23In the latter period of their rule, When the transgressors have run their course, A king will arise, Insolent and skilled in intrigue. 24His power will be mighty, but not by his own power, And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree And prosper and perform his will; He will destroy mighty men and the holy people. 25And through his shrewdness He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence; And he will magnify himself in his heart, And he will destroy many while they are at ease. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, But he will be broken without human agency. 26The vision of the evenings and mornings Which has been told is true; But keep the vision secret, For it pertains to many days in the future.'“

Daniel 8:18 “I sank into a deep sleep” The presence of the spiritual realm causes humans to be frightened and pass out (BDB 922, KB 1191, cf. Genesis 15:12; Job 4:13; Daniel 10:9). In Revelation 1:17 John looked as if he had died!

“he touched me” The angel's touch was a great comfort (cf. Daniel 10:10, Daniel 10:16, Daniel 10:18; 1 Kings 19:7; Revelation 1:17).

Daniel 8:19 “the final period of the indignation” This term (BDB 276) is used often in Isaiah of YHWH's indignation against His people for their covenant faithlessness; therefore, He punishes them by means of foreign nations (cf. Isaiah 10:5-6, Isaiah 10:25; Isaiah 13:2-16 [esp. Isaiah 13:5]). However, His indignation will pass (cf. Isaiah 26:20; Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 66:7-24 [esp. Isaiah 66:14]). This theme is continued in Ezekiel (cf. Ezekiel 21:31; Ezekiel 22:24, Ezekiel 22:31). It is foreshadowed in Deuteronomy 28:49-57.

In the context of the book of Daniel this indignation (BDB 276) has to do with the independence and arrogance of the Gentile nations who God used to judge His people. Their arrogance is projected into the distant future (i.e., Greece for Daniel 8:19 and end-time Antichrist for Daniel 11:36 [cf. Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:20-22, Daniel 7:23-26; 2 Thessalonians 2:0; Revelation 12-13]). Now He will judge these Gentile nations (cf. Daniel 11:36). See Special Topic: Antichrist.

“for it pertains to the appointed time of the end” This phrase (BDB 417) is found here and in Daniel 11:27, Daniel 11:29, Daniel 11:35, which all refer to events relating to Greece, especially Antiochus IV, who aggressively attacks God's people.

The confusion so common in interpreting Daniel is the failure to:

1. recognize its genre and to try to identify all details historically

2. recognize its near future symbols and its far future symbols

a. the little horns of Daniel 7:8

b. Daniel 8:3 vs. 9:24-27

c. Daniel 11:1-35, Daniel 8:5 vs. 11:31-39

3. recognize its merging of anti-God kingdoms. The fourth kingdom is Rome, but more, it is all Gentile world-dominating powers.

Daniel 8:20 “the ram. . .Media and Persia” The ram was the sign of Persia (Aries, the Zodiac sign), but the ram was also the guardian spirit of Persia and the king wore the ram's emblem to battle.

Daniel 8:21 “the shaggy goat. . .Greece” In Daniel 8:5 there is a Hebrew CONSTRUCT for male goat (BDB 862 and 777). In Daniel 8:21 there are two words which the Handbook on the Book of Daniel, from the Untied Bible Societies, says is made up of the Hebrew word for male goat (BDB 972 II) and the Aramaic word for he-goat (BDB 862), which are in opposition, p. 222. The ADJECTIVE form of this term means “hairy,” therefore, the additional word “shaggy” in Daniel 8:21. This additional term usually refers to the goats offered as a sin-sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 4:23, Leviticus 4:24; Leviticus 9:15; Leviticus 16:5, Leviticus 16:7-8; Numbers 7:16).

The goat was the Zodiac sign of Greece, Capricorn, and it was the national symbol of the Macedonian coat of arms. These two verses are very historically specific in the identification of the second and third Gentile kingdoms of Daniel's vision.

“the first king” This is obviously Alexander the Great.

Daniel 8:22 “although not with his power” None of the rival Greek generals (satraps) ever equaled the power and extent of Alexander's kingdom!

Daniel 8:23-26 These verses are in poetic form in the NASB, NRSV, NJB, and REB translations.

Daniel 8:23 “A king will arise, insolent and skilled in intrigue” This seems to describe Antiochus IV Epiphanes' rise to power.

NASB“insolent and skilled in intrigue” NKJV“who understands sinister schemes” NRSV“skilled in intrigue” TEV“stubborn, vicious and deceitful” NJB“ingenious-minded man”

This is literally “strong of face” (CONSTRUCT BDB 738 and 815) and “one who understands riddles” (CONSTRUCT BDB 106 and 295).

Daniel 8:24 “'his power will be mighty, but not by his own power'“ Here again, is the recurrent theme of God's control and direction of human history (cf. Daniel 8:25f; Daniel 2:20-23). God used Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and will use whomever He chooses to accomplish His will (cf. Romans 9:0)! Often humans, even redeemed humans, do not understand (cf. Isaiah 55:8-11).

NASB“he will destroy to an extraordinary degree” NKJV“he shall destroy fearfully” NRSV“shall cause fearful destruction” TEV“will cause terrible destruction” NJB“will plot incredible schemes”

The first VERBAL (BDB 810, KB 927) is a Niphal PARTICIPLE and the second VERB (BDB 852 II, KB 1026) is a Hiphil IMPERFECT. This word is often used for the wonders and marvelous works of God (cf. Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 25:1; Isaiah 29:14; Daniel 12:6). Here, however, it speaks of the terribly destructive acts of this king of the third empire (cf. Daniel 8:11-13).

“And prosper and perform his will See note at Daniel 8:12.

NASB“will destroy mighty men” NKJV“shall destroy the mighty” NRSV, NJB“shall destroy the powerful” TEV“will bring destruction on powerful men”

The VERB means “corrupt” (BDB 1007, KB 1469, Hiphil PERFECT, cf. Genesis 6:12; Deuteronomy 4:16; Deuteronomy 31:29; Ezekiel 16:47), “ruin” (cf. Malachi 3:11), or “destroy” (cf. Daniel 8:25; Isaiah 36:10; Jeremiah 51:20).

The ADJECTIVE “mighty” usually means numerous (BDB 783, cf. “many” of Daniel 8:25d). Because of Daniel's literary style it is surely possible that “the mighty men” and “the holy people” are parallel. The other option would be to see “mighty men” as the army of national or political rivals. The full phrase denotes the king's (small horns) complete success.

This phrase “the holy people” is literally “the people of the holy ones,” which is very similar to Daniel 7:27. Many scholars believe that the phrase in Daniel 7:27 is parallel to “holy ones” of Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:22, and 25. In context Daniel 8:24 cannot refer to angels.

Daniel 8:25 This fits what we know of Antiochus IV. See also I Maccabees 1:29-41,44-50; 4:38-39.

“He will magnify himself in his heart” The VERB (BDB 152, KB 178) is a Hiphil IMPERFECT. This has been the recurrent problem of fallen humanity and especially of tyrannical dictators and potentates. This activity always attracts God's attention (cf. Isaiah 9:9; Isaiah 10:12; Daniel 5:20; Daniel 8:11; Daniel 11:36-37).

NASB“while they are at ease” NKJV“in their prosperity” NRSV, TEV“without warning” NJB“taking them unawares”

The term “at ease” (BDB 1017) means quietness in the sense of security, but without warning at such a time and in such a place (probably “the Beautiful Land,” i.e., Palestine, cf. Daniel 8:9, Daniel 8:11, Daniel 8:16,41), they will be attacked (cf. Daniel 11:21, Daniel 11:24).

The attacker will be the king of Daniel 8:23 and those attacked will be “the mighty men and the holy people” of Daniel 8:24.

“he will even oppose the Prince of princes” The VERB (BDB 763, KB 840) is a Qal IMPERFECT. This same word, “prince” (BDB 978, cf. Daniel 8:11, Daniel 8:25; Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1) is translated “commander” in Daniel 8:11 and seems in context to refer to YHWH (cf. Joshua 5:12-15). The Hebrew word does not imply a crown prince, co-regent, or ruler in waiting as it does in English, but the chief leader. It is used of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 9:7; of Michael the Archangel (cf. Jude 1:9); and of Israel in Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1.

The redundant “Prince of princes” is a Hebrew superlative, “the greatest of all rulers” (i.e., King of Kings, cf. Daniel 2:37, Daniel 2:47; Ezekiel 26:7; or [God of gods]; Ezra 7:12).

“But he will be broken without human agency” The VERB (BDB 990, KB 1402) is a Niphil IMPERFECT. This is the recurrent theme of God's sovereignty and control (cf. Daniel 2:20-23).

Daniel 8:26 “evenings and mornings” This refers to the offering of a lamb in the temple each morning and evening (cf. Daniel 8:11-14, Daniel 8:19).

The Jewish culture starts the new day at evening, following the order of Genesis 1:5, Genesis 1:8, Genesis 1:13, Genesis 1:19, Genesis 1:23, Genesis 1:31.

The vision and prophecy of chapter 8 is future to Daniel, but past to us. This gives us a great opportunity to evaluate prophetic/apocalyptic language in a known event (cf. D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic, pp. 103-128). We can read I Maccabees, Josephus, and secular histories to compare how the event was recorded in the Bible and outside the Bible. The differences show us (1) the stylized language of Hebrew prophecy and (2) the over-the-top emotional hyperboles of apocalyptic symbolism.

“Which has been told” See Daniel 8:15-25.

“is true” This (BDB 54) should possibly be understood as certain to happen just the way it was revealed in Daniel 8:15-25. For a good discussion of meaning and truth in Scripture see Kevin. J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?

“But keep the vision secret” This secrecy is seen in Daniel 7:28 and Daniel 12:4, Daniel 12:9. This is literally, “stop us” or “shut up” (BDB 711, KB 771, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. 2 Kings 3:19; 2 Chronicles 32:4, 2 Chronicles 32:30; the PASSIVE in Daniel 12:9). This means that the phrase may mean to conserve the vision, not keep it secret!

Verse 27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Daniel 8:27 27”Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again and carried on the king's business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it.”

Daniel 8:27

NASB“I was exhausted and sick for days” NKJV“fainted and was sick for days” NRSV“was overcome and lay sick for some days” TEV“I was depressed and ill for several days” NJB“lost consciousness; I was ill for several days”

The vision of both Daniel 7:28 and Daniel 8:27 made Daniel physically ill.

“there was none to explain it This phrase is surprising in light of Daniel 8:15-19!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What two kings are mentioned in chapter 8?

2. Should we identify the little horn of chapter 7 with the little horn of chapter 8? Why or why not? Who are these little horns?

3. Who are the transgressors in Daniel 8:12, Daniel 8:23?

4. To whom does the prophesy relate: to Daniel's time; to the Maccabean period, to Jesus' time, or to the end time? Why?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Daniel 8". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/daniel-8.html. 2021.
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