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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Daniel 8

 

 

Verses 1-27

Daniel 8:1-27

Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns.

The World-powers and Israel

A glance at the particulars in this vision is enough to satisfy us that we have to do with some of the same powers brought to view in the preceding chapter, and in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. What, at first glance, we might be disposed to regard as mere repetitions are not such in reality. There is something connected with the repetition to adapt it to some altered position, end, or intent. In the two preceding visions we behold the pictures of the powers of the world as a whole, without regard to any distinction between Jew and Gentile. It is human dominion in its broadest view, in the entirety of its history--first as outwardly considered, and then as spiritually considered, and finally superseded by the Kingdom of God. The vision now in hand is given, not in Chaldee, but in Hebrew. What Daniel is shown of these world-power manifestations he sees and hears not only as a spiritual man of God, but more particularly as a Jewish prophet, and as mainly concerning the Jewish people. Hence the dominion of Babylon is left out entirely, for it was now on the eve of its downfall, and nothing more was to come of it to the Jews. It is still the same world-power in its various forms which constitutes the subject of this vision, but with the emphasis now on what particularly concerns the Jewish prophet, and with all else touched but lightly, or not at all. To little purpose do we read the Book of Daniel not to find in it a solemn warning to the Church of our time, and for all the days yet to come, to beware of the fascinating flatteries and secularising expedients and compliances which, in the self-idolising spirit of spurious charity, specious liberality, mad heartless scepticism, would tempt her to forget her Dirge origin and Heavenly destiny. There is a spirit abroad which would have the Church rescind her sacred charter, cancel her authentic commission, and assimilate herself to a mere political or conventional institution. Men call it a liberalising spirit, a spirit of improvement, which would change our Christian schools and colleges into mere secular gymnasiums and scientific museums or artistic studios and literary athenaeums but it is a spirit which is prone to treat holy Scriptures as mere human lucubrations of worthy men before the ages of better light, rationalise away all the definite doctrines of the authourised creed into mere scholastic or philosophical theorems, dissolve the sacraments into picturesque symbolisms and visionary shadows without life or power, and dismantle the ministry and services of the Church as if they never had a solid right to be regarded as the appointment of very God for conveying and imparting to lost men the regenerating, sanctifying and only restorative gifts of Jehovah’s grace. It is the spirit of Antichrist. Many of the so-called churches, and the leaders of the prevailing religious sentiment of our day, are sewing for a harvest of miseries of which they but little dream. Daniel was greatly affected by these visions, and the explanations made of them, as he well might be. (Joseph A. Seiss, D.D.)

Vision of the -Ram and the He-Goat

Learn:

1. The strength of one evil habit may overcome even the mightiest conqueror. Alexander the Great died as the victim of his own excesses at the early age of thirty-three. He could conquer the world by his armies, yet intemperance was his master and destroyer. How many there are among us who have made similar conquests, and been themselves similarly overcome. Think of Lord Byron and Robert Burns, the two poets. To no purpose shall we gain other crowns if we are our- selves the slaves of appetite. It is easier to acquire a habit than it is to break it off.

2. Conformity to the world is fraught with great danger to the people of God. If we have been right in conjecturing that the evils which came upon the Jews in the days of Anticchus were designed as chastisements for their unfaithfulness to the covenant, the history over which we have come is, in this regard, full of most salutary warning. Nor does it stand alone. The tendency of these days is to minimize the difference between the Christian and other men. So it happens that the Church of Christ is invaded by the unbelieving, and its power to resist and overcome the world is thereby sadly weakened. That which gives salt its value is its saltness, and when that quality is lost by it, men cast it from them and trample it underfoot. Our peculiarities as Christians are the very elements of our power. By these it is that the Church has its aggressive force and purifying influence upon the world.

3. Learn, in conclusion, the limited power of the enemies of God’s people. The spoliation of Jerusalem by Antiochus was to be only for a season. The world-tyrant could only go a certain length. God is stronger than the mightiest man; and so to the people of God who continue faithful unto Him there is a limit to calamity. The longest night is followed by the dawn. As the proverb has it, “Time and the hour run through the roughest day.”

Then be patient, be uncompromising, be courageous. (William M. Taylor, D.D.)

Vision of the Ram and the He-Goat

This second vision of Daniel came to him in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar. If the first year of

Belshazzar, during which Daniel had his first vision, corresponded with the seventh year of his father Nabonidus, the year following that in which

Media was conquered by Cyrus the third year of Belshazzar would be the tenth year of Nabonidus, and so about 646 B.C. The scene of the vision was

Shushan, or Susa, the capital of Elam, and afterwards one of the chief residences of the Persian kings. Shushan, which means a lily, may have been so called from the many white lilies which grew in its neighbourhood.

The language of Daniel leaves it doubtful whether, when he received the vision, he was present at Shushan in the body or only in the spirit, like to

Ezekiel when he was removed to Jerusalem to see the causes of his impending doom (Ezekiel 8:1-18). As Elam, which lay to the east of Babylonia, seems to have become a tributary province of the empire in the days of

Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel as the prime minister would sometimes probably visit Shushan its capital: but as the history of Elam during this period is very obscure, it would be hazardous to affirm that he was actually present in Shushan when he received the vision, although it seems to me that he might. The likelihood seems to be that Cyrus would leave Elam untouched, not only until after the conquest of Media, Lydia, and Persia, but also until after he had made adequate preparations for the more formidable task of conquering the great Babylonian empire. In that case Daniel might be in

Shushan in the tenth year of Nabonidus, which we have supposed to be the third year of his son Belshazzar, in connection with the mustering of the forces of Elam against Cyrus; and his actual presence there for the purposes of defence would give peculiar point and significance to the vision.. The first thing in the vision which met the eye of the ecstatic Daniel was a ram with two horns (v. 3, 4). The river Ulai (the Eulaeus of the

Greeks) before which the ram stood, apparently on the opposite side of the stream, seems to have been “a large artificial canal, some nine hundred feet broad, though it is now dry, which left the Choaspes at Pat Pul, about twenty miles north-west of Susa, passed close by the town of Susa on the north or north-east, and afterwards joined the Coprates” (Driver). In connection with the ram there is in the original, the numeral one, to bring into relief the fact that the ram had two horns. The ram is the symbol of the

Medo-Persian empire, as the angel Gabriel said to Daniel: “The ram which thou sawest that had two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia.” This symbol corresponds with that of the arms and breast of silver in the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and with that of the bear raised up on one side in the first vision of Daniel. The two horns, which represent the kingdoms of Media and Persia, were both high or conspicuous horns, while the horn which was higher than the other, and which came up after it, represents the kingdom of Persia, which until the time of Cyrus was but a tributary of Media, but which grew and became the more powerful and conspicuous member of the united kingdom. This is seen in the fact that at the first, as in this book, the empire is spoken of as that of the Medes and Persians, but afterwards, as in the book of Esther, as that of the Persians and the Medes (Esther 1:3; Esther 1:14; Esther 1:18-19). As the symbol of the ram with the two horns here represents the Medo-Persian empire, it is strange that anyone should explain the symbol of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and that of Daniel’s first vision to mean the Medes alone. The idea of a Median empire succeeding the Babylonian is, as the higher critics admit, a gross historical blunder; but then they ascribe the blunder, which they themselves have created, to the ignorance of the author, and apply to their own workmanship the well-sounding name of scientific criticism. As Daniel looked at the ram with the two horns on the other side of the Ulai, he saw it pushing or butting westward, and northward and southward, and overthrowing all the beasts which came in its way, and glorying in its crushing and victorious power. This is a striking description of the conquests and spirit of the Medo-Persian empire. In the west it vanquished Babylon and Syria; in the north Lydia, Armenia, and the Scythian nations; and in the south part of Arabia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. It was more of a world-empire than Babylon, and for a time resistless in its conquering career, and became in an eminent degree a despotic and vainglorious power. The next part of the vision relates to the he-goat (v. 5, 8). This is the interpretation given by Gabriel to Daniel: “And the rough he-goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. And as for that which was broken, in the place whereof four stood up, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not with his power.” The he-goat with its one great horn at the first, and afterwards with its four notable horns, the symbol of the Graeco-Macedonian empire, corresponds with the belly and thighs of brass of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and with the four-winged leopard with four heads in Daniel’s first vision. There is a likeness of a he-goat with one notable horn between its eyes still to be seen in the sculptures at Persepolis. The first king of the GraceMacedonian empire, symbolised by the one great horn between the eyes, is Alexander the Great. This remarkable man, who at thirteen became for three years the pupil of the famous Aristotle, was born in 356 B.C., and ascended the throne of Macedonia in 336 B.C., when he was twenty years of age. Within two years after his coronation he had made himself the recognised leader of the Grecian peoples; and in 334 B.C., he crossed the Hellespont to overthrow the Medo-Persian empire with not more perhaps than 30,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry, and began the struggle by completely routing the Persians in battle at the Granicus. He then overran and subdued a large part of Asia Minor, and in 333 B.C. dealt a crushing blow to the immense army of Darius at Issus in Cilicia. Instead of pursuing the beaten Darius the youthful conqueror marched southward through Syria and Palestine, taking Tyre after a siege of seven months, and Gaza after a siege of two, and entered Egypt, where he not only overthrew the Persian rule, but founded the city of Alexandria for his new kingdom. In 331 B.C. he left Egypt and hastened with all speed through Palestine and Syria to Thapsacus, where he crossed the Euphrates, and then onwards to the Tigris, below Nineveh, which he crossed without opposition. Some days after Alexander encountered the army of Darius, said to be more than a million in number, posted on a broad plain stretching from Guagamela to Arbela, and completely routed it, and thus practically ended the Medo-Persian empire, which had lasted for a period of 218 years. In the following year, 330 B.C., Darius, after he had fled to Susa, then to Persepolis (Pasargadae), and then to Ecbatana, three of the royal residences of the Persian kings, made his escape into Bactria, where he was assassinated. In three years the little king of Macedonia had made himself master of the vast Medo-Persian empire. The rapidity of his movements is aptly likened to that of a four-winged leopard in the first vision, and in this to that of a he-goat bounding along without touching the ground. His attacks on the armies of Darius were like those of the he-goat on the ram with the two horns. Darius, like the ram, had no power to resist him; and Alexander, like the he-goat, “cast him down to the ground, and trampled upon him; and there was none to deliver the ram out of his hand.” Alexander, too, like the he-goat, “magnified himself exceedingly.” His extraordinary successes impressed him with the idea that he must be more than human; and, to settle the matter, when he was in Egypt, he sent to enquire of the oracle of Ammon, which, knowing what would please the vainglorious conqueror, gave the answer that he was the son, not of Philip, but of Zeus. Hence, to the disgust of many of his followers, he claimed to be divine, and expected to be worshipped with divine honours. And he, like the great horn, was “broken in his strength.” He was cut off at Babylon by fever, aggravated by intemperance, when in the midst of his successes, and not yet thirty-three years of age. After the breaking of the great horn the four notable horns, which came up towards the four winds of Heaven, are explained by Gabriel to be four kingdoms that would stand up out of the nation, but not with his power. The four horns of the-he-goat correspond with the four heads of the leopard in the first vision. Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C.; and for twenty-two years after the empire was in a condition of conflict and confusion; but in 301 B.C. it was divided into four kingdoms, all of which were weaker than the original empire. Seleucus got what may be called the eastern kingdom of Syria, Babylonia, and the countries as far as India; Cassander, the western kingdom of Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus, the northern kingdom of Thrace and Bithynia; and Ptolemy, the southern kingdom of Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia Petrea. These four kingdoms were towards the four winds of Heaven. The little horn is admitted on all hands to be Antiochus Epiphanes, who seized the throne of Syria in 175 B.C., in the absence of his nephew Demetrius, the rightful heir. He might be called a little horn, partly from the depressed state of the kingdom of Syria at the time, and partly from his own depressed state, as he had been hostage at Rome for the seven preceding years. In the eyes of the world such a king would be very insignificant. The period in which he would arise is said to be “in the latter time of the kingdom (the Graeco-Macedonian empire), when the transgressors are come to the full,” that is, when the Jewish people had filled up the cup of their iniquity. Many of the Jews with their high priest apostatised in the early days of Antiochus, and adopted the heathen customs of the Greeks. The period of the little horn is also said to belong to the time of the end. Gabriel said to Daniel 5:17 : “Understand O son of man; for the vision belongeth to the time of the end”; and again, v.19: “Behold I will make thee know what shall be in the latter time of theindignation; for it belongeth to the appointed time of the end.” The time of the end seems to refer to the end of the present age, as distinguished from the future age of the Messiah. The appearance of the little horn, which would be in the latter time of God’s indignation against His chosen people, would show that men were living in the last stage of the old order of things, and that a new order of things was about to arise. Antiochus Epiphanes, the little horn which was to arise in the time of the end, is minutely and accurately described. He was “a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences,” noted for his hard-hearted cruelty and crafty dissimulation. Though a little horn at the first, “he waxed exceeding great toward the glorious land.” The south refers to Egypt, against which he undertook several campaigns, and would have made a complete conquest of it, had it not been for the interference of the Romans; the east refers to his military expeditions into Armenia, Bactria, and Elymais; and the glorious land, “the glory of all lands” in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:6), refers to Palestine which he so grievously oppressed. His success was due, not so much to inherent ability as to the favouring providence of God and the practice of dissimulation. The one cause is pointed out in the words, “And his power shall be mighty; but not by his own power”; and the other in the words, “And through his policy he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand.” And in his successful career, “he shall destroy the mighty ones and the holy people,” that is, powerful foes in the world and the chosen people of Israel. The destructive power of the little horn is especially noted in reference to the holy people. We read: “And it waxed great even to the host of heaven: and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them.” The host of Heaven and the stars refer to the same, and not to different persons; and the stars here symbolise, not the angels but the chosen people, partly because the seed of Abraham had been likened to the stars for multitude (Genesis 15:5), but mainly because they are sometimes called the Lord’s host (Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:41). This was fulfilled in his two captures of Jerusalem, when many of the inhabitants were slain, and in his persecution of those who refused to abandon their religion (Jos. Ant. 12:3, 4). “Yes,” continues Daniel, “it magnified itself, oven to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the continual burnt offering and the pines of his sanctuary was cut down. And the host was given over to it, together with the continual burnt offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered.” This describes the attempt of Antiochus to extinguish the religion of the Jews. The arch-persecutor was opposed not only to the host but to the prince of the host. His aim was to blast the glory, and overthrow the power of the Most High. He plundered His temple, and caused the daily sacrifice to cease, and transformed the altar of Jehovah into an altar dedicated to the worship of idols. And because of the transgressions of the host Antiochus, like Nebuchadnezzar in reference to the destruction of Solomon’s temple, was permitted to do his pleasure and prosper. (T. Kirk.)


Verses 1-27

Daniel 8:1-27

Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns.

The World-powers and Israel

A glance at the particulars in this vision is enough to satisfy us that we have to do with some of the same powers brought to view in the preceding chapter, and in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. What, at first glance, we might be disposed to regard as mere repetitions are not such in reality. There is something connected with the repetition to adapt it to some altered position, end, or intent. In the two preceding visions we behold the pictures of the powers of the world as a whole, without regard to any distinction between Jew and Gentile. It is human dominion in its broadest view, in the entirety of its history--first as outwardly considered, and then as spiritually considered, and finally superseded by the Kingdom of God. The vision now in hand is given, not in Chaldee, but in Hebrew. What Daniel is shown of these world-power manifestations he sees and hears not only as a spiritual man of God, but more particularly as a Jewish prophet, and as mainly concerning the Jewish people. Hence the dominion of Babylon is left out entirely, for it was now on the eve of its downfall, and nothing more was to come of it to the Jews. It is still the same world-power in its various forms which constitutes the subject of this vision, but with the emphasis now on what particularly concerns the Jewish prophet, and with all else touched but lightly, or not at all. To little purpose do we read the Book of Daniel not to find in it a solemn warning to the Church of our time, and for all the days yet to come, to beware of the fascinating flatteries and secularising expedients and compliances which, in the self-idolising spirit of spurious charity, specious liberality, mad heartless scepticism, would tempt her to forget her Dirge origin and Heavenly destiny. There is a spirit abroad which would have the Church rescind her sacred charter, cancel her authentic commission, and assimilate herself to a mere political or conventional institution. Men call it a liberalising spirit, a spirit of improvement, which would change our Christian schools and colleges into mere secular gymnasiums and scientific museums or artistic studios and literary athenaeums but it is a spirit which is prone to treat holy Scriptures as mere human lucubrations of worthy men before the ages of better light, rationalise away all the definite doctrines of the authourised creed into mere scholastic or philosophical theorems, dissolve the sacraments into picturesque symbolisms and visionary shadows without life or power, and dismantle the ministry and services of the Church as if they never had a solid right to be regarded as the appointment of very God for conveying and imparting to lost men the regenerating, sanctifying and only restorative gifts of Jehovah’s grace. It is the spirit of Antichrist. Many of the so-called churches, and the leaders of the prevailing religious sentiment of our day, are sewing for a harvest of miseries of which they but little dream. Daniel was greatly affected by these visions, and the explanations made of them, as he well might be. (Joseph A. Seiss, D.D.)

Vision of the -Ram and the He-Goat

Learn:

1. The strength of one evil habit may overcome even the mightiest conqueror. Alexander the Great died as the victim of his own excesses at the early age of thirty-three. He could conquer the world by his armies, yet intemperance was his master and destroyer. How many there are among us who have made similar conquests, and been themselves similarly overcome. Think of Lord Byron and Robert Burns, the two poets. To no purpose shall we gain other crowns if we are our- selves the slaves of appetite. It is easier to acquire a habit than it is to break it off.

2. Conformity to the world is fraught with great danger to the people of God. If we have been right in conjecturing that the evils which came upon the Jews in the days of Anticchus were designed as chastisements for their unfaithfulness to the covenant, the history over which we have come is, in this regard, full of most salutary warning. Nor does it stand alone. The tendency of these days is to minimize the difference between the Christian and other men. So it happens that the Church of Christ is invaded by the unbelieving, and its power to resist and overcome the world is thereby sadly weakened. That which gives salt its value is its saltness, and when that quality is lost by it, men cast it from them and trample it underfoot. Our peculiarities as Christians are the very elements of our power. By these it is that the Church has its aggressive force and purifying influence upon the world.

3. Learn, in conclusion, the limited power of the enemies of God’s people. The spoliation of Jerusalem by Antiochus was to be only for a season. The world-tyrant could only go a certain length. God is stronger than the mightiest man; and so to the people of God who continue faithful unto Him there is a limit to calamity. The longest night is followed by the dawn. As the proverb has it, “Time and the hour run through the roughest day.”

Then be patient, be uncompromising, be courageous. (William M. Taylor, D.D.)

Vision of the Ram and the He-Goat

This second vision of Daniel came to him in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar. If the first year of

Belshazzar, during which Daniel had his first vision, corresponded with the seventh year of his father Nabonidus, the year following that in which

Media was conquered by Cyrus the third year of Belshazzar would be the tenth year of Nabonidus, and so about 646 B.C. The scene of the vision was

Shushan, or Susa, the capital of Elam, and afterwards one of the chief residences of the Persian kings. Shushan, which means a lily, may have been so called from the many white lilies which grew in its neighbourhood.

The language of Daniel leaves it doubtful whether, when he received the vision, he was present at Shushan in the body or only in the spirit, like to

Ezekiel when he was removed to Jerusalem to see the causes of his impending doom (Ezekiel 8:1-18). As Elam, which lay to the east of Babylonia, seems to have become a tributary province of the empire in the days of

Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel as the prime minister would sometimes probably visit Shushan its capital: but as the history of Elam during this period is very obscure, it would be hazardous to affirm that he was actually present in Shushan when he received the vision, although it seems to me that he might. The likelihood seems to be that Cyrus would leave Elam untouched, not only until after the conquest of Media, Lydia, and Persia, but also until after he had made adequate preparations for the more formidable task of conquering the great Babylonian empire. In that case Daniel might be in

Shushan in the tenth year of Nabonidus, which we have supposed to be the third year of his son Belshazzar, in connection with the mustering of the forces of Elam against Cyrus; and his actual presence there for the purposes of defence would give peculiar point and significance to the vision.. The first thing in the vision which met the eye of the ecstatic Daniel was a ram with two horns (v. 3, 4). The river Ulai (the Eulaeus of the

Greeks) before which the ram stood, apparently on the opposite side of the stream, seems to have been “a large artificial canal, some nine hundred feet broad, though it is now dry, which left the Choaspes at Pat Pul, about twenty miles north-west of Susa, passed close by the town of Susa on the north or north-east, and afterwards joined the Coprates” (Driver). In connection with the ram there is in the original, the numeral one, to bring into relief the fact that the ram had two horns. The ram is the symbol of the

Medo-Persian empire, as the angel Gabriel said to Daniel: “The ram which thou sawest that had two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia.” This symbol corresponds with that of the arms and breast of silver in the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and with that of the bear raised up on one side in the first vision of Daniel. The two horns, which represent the kingdoms of Media and Persia, were both high or conspicuous horns, while the horn which was higher than the other, and which came up after it, represents the kingdom of Persia, which until the time of Cyrus was but a tributary of Media, but which grew and became the more powerful and conspicuous member of the united kingdom. This is seen in the fact that at the first, as in this book, the empire is spoken of as that of the Medes and Persians, but afterwards, as in the book of Esther, as that of the Persians and the Medes (Esther 1:3; Esther 1:14; Esther 1:18-19). As the symbol of the ram with the two horns here represents the Medo-Persian empire, it is strange that anyone should explain the symbol of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and that of Daniel’s first vision to mean the Medes alone. The idea of a Median empire succeeding the Babylonian is, as the higher critics admit, a gross historical blunder; but then they ascribe the blunder, which they themselves have created, to the ignorance of the author, and apply to their own workmanship the well-sounding name of scientific criticism. As Daniel looked at the ram with the two horns on the other side of the Ulai, he saw it pushing or butting westward, and northward and southward, and overthrowing all the beasts which came in its way, and glorying in its crushing and victorious power. This is a striking description of the conquests and spirit of the Medo-Persian empire. In the west it vanquished Babylon and Syria; in the north Lydia, Armenia, and the Scythian nations; and in the south part of Arabia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. It was more of a world-empire than Babylon, and for a time resistless in its conquering career, and became in an eminent degree a despotic and vainglorious power. The next part of the vision relates to the he-goat (v. 5, 8). This is the interpretation given by Gabriel to Daniel: “And the rough he-goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. And as for that which was broken, in the place whereof four stood up, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not with his power.” The he-goat with its one great horn at the first, and afterwards with its four notable horns, the symbol of the Graeco-Macedonian empire, corresponds with the belly and thighs of brass of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and with the four-winged leopard with four heads in Daniel’s first vision. There is a likeness of a he-goat with one notable horn between its eyes still to be seen in the sculptures at Persepolis. The first king of the GraceMacedonian empire, symbolised by the one great horn between the eyes, is Alexander the Great. This remarkable man, who at thirteen became for three years the pupil of the famous Aristotle, was born in 356 B.C., and ascended the throne of Macedonia in 336 B.C., when he was twenty years of age. Within two years after his coronation he had made himself the recognised leader of the Grecian peoples; and in 334 B.C., he crossed the Hellespont to overthrow the Medo-Persian empire with not more perhaps than 30,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry, and began the struggle by completely routing the Persians in battle at the Granicus. He then overran and subdued a large part of Asia Minor, and in 333 B.C. dealt a crushing blow to the immense army of Darius at Issus in Cilicia. Instead of pursuing the beaten Darius the youthful conqueror marched southward through Syria and Palestine, taking Tyre after a siege of seven months, and Gaza after a siege of two, and entered Egypt, where he not only overthrew the Persian rule, but founded the city of Alexandria for his new kingdom. In 331 B.C. he left Egypt and hastened with all speed through Palestine and Syria to Thapsacus, where he crossed the Euphrates, and then onwards to the Tigris, below Nineveh, which he crossed without opposition. Some days after Alexander encountered the army of Darius, said to be more than a million in number, posted on a broad plain stretching from Guagamela to Arbela, and completely routed it, and thus practically ended the Medo-Persian empire, which had lasted for a period of 218 years. In the following year, 330 B.C., Darius, after he had fled to Susa, then to Persepolis (Pasargadae), and then to Ecbatana, three of the royal residences of the Persian kings, made his escape into Bactria, where he was assassinated. In three years the little king of Macedonia had made himself master of the vast Medo-Persian empire. The rapidity of his movements is aptly likened to that of a four-winged leopard in the first vision, and in this to that of a he-goat bounding along without touching the ground. His attacks on the armies of Darius were like those of the he-goat on the ram with the two horns. Darius, like the ram, had no power to resist him; and Alexander, like the he-goat, “cast him down to the ground, and trampled upon him; and there was none to deliver the ram out of his hand.” Alexander, too, like the he-goat, “magnified himself exceedingly.” His extraordinary successes impressed him with the idea that he must be more than human; and, to settle the matter, when he was in Egypt, he sent to enquire of the oracle of Ammon, which, knowing what would please the vainglorious conqueror, gave the answer that he was the son, not of Philip, but of Zeus. Hence, to the disgust of many of his followers, he claimed to be divine, and expected to be worshipped with divine honours. And he, like the great horn, was “broken in his strength.” He was cut off at Babylon by fever, aggravated by intemperance, when in the midst of his successes, and not yet thirty-three years of age. After the breaking of the great horn the four notable horns, which came up towards the four winds of Heaven, are explained by Gabriel to be four kingdoms that would stand up out of the nation, but not with his power. The four horns of the-he-goat correspond with the four heads of the leopard in the first vision. Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C.; and for twenty-two years after the empire was in a condition of conflict and confusion; but in 301 B.C. it was divided into four kingdoms, all of which were weaker than the original empire. Seleucus got what may be called the eastern kingdom of Syria, Babylonia, and the countries as far as India; Cassander, the western kingdom of Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus, the northern kingdom of Thrace and Bithynia; and Ptolemy, the southern kingdom of Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia Petrea. These four kingdoms were towards the four winds of Heaven. The little horn is admitted on all hands to be Antiochus Epiphanes, who seized the throne of Syria in 175 B.C., in the absence of his nephew Demetrius, the rightful heir. He might be called a little horn, partly from the depressed state of the kingdom of Syria at the time, and partly from his own depressed state, as he had been hostage at Rome for the seven preceding years. In the eyes of the world such a king would be very insignificant. The period in which he would arise is said to be “in the latter time of the kingdom (the Graeco-Macedonian empire), when the transgressors are come to the full,” that is, when the Jewish people had filled up the cup of their iniquity. Many of the Jews with their high priest apostatised in the early days of Antiochus, and adopted the heathen customs of the Greeks. The period of the little horn is also said to belong to the time of the end. Gabriel said to Daniel 5:17 : “Understand O son of man; for the vision belongeth to the time of the end”; and again, v.19: “Behold I will make thee know what shall be in the latter time of theindignation; for it belongeth to the appointed time of the end.” The time of the end seems to refer to the end of the present age, as distinguished from the future age of the Messiah. The appearance of the little horn, which would be in the latter time of God’s indignation against His chosen people, would show that men were living in the last stage of the old order of things, and that a new order of things was about to arise. Antiochus Epiphanes, the little horn which was to arise in the time of the end, is minutely and accurately described. He was “a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences,” noted for his hard-hearted cruelty and crafty dissimulation. Though a little horn at the first, “he waxed exceeding great toward the glorious land.” The south refers to Egypt, against which he undertook several campaigns, and would have made a complete conquest of it, had it not been for the interference of the Romans; the east refers to his military expeditions into Armenia, Bactria, and Elymais; and the glorious land, “the glory of all lands” in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:6), refers to Palestine which he so grievously oppressed. His success was due, not so much to inherent ability as to the favouring providence of God and the practice of dissimulation. The one cause is pointed out in the words, “And his power shall be mighty; but not by his own power”; and the other in the words, “And through his policy he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand.” And in his successful career, “he shall destroy the mighty ones and the holy people,” that is, powerful foes in the world and the chosen people of Israel. The destructive power of the little horn is especially noted in reference to the holy people. We read: “And it waxed great even to the host of heaven: and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them.” The host of Heaven and the stars refer to the same, and not to different persons; and the stars here symbolise, not the angels but the chosen people, partly because the seed of Abraham had been likened to the stars for multitude (Genesis 15:5), but mainly because they are sometimes called the Lord’s host (Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:41). This was fulfilled in his two captures of Jerusalem, when many of the inhabitants were slain, and in his persecution of those who refused to abandon their religion (Jos. Ant. 12:3, 4). “Yes,” continues Daniel, “it magnified itself, oven to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the continual burnt offering and the pines of his sanctuary was cut down. And the host was given over to it, together with the continual burnt offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered.” This describes the attempt of Antiochus to extinguish the religion of the Jews. The arch-persecutor was opposed not only to the host but to the prince of the host. His aim was to blast the glory, and overthrow the power of the Most High. He plundered His temple, and caused the daily sacrifice to cease, and transformed the altar of Jehovah into an altar dedicated to the worship of idols. And because of the transgressions of the host Antiochus, like Nebuchadnezzar in reference to the destruction of Solomon’s temple, was permitted to do his pleasure and prosper. (T. Kirk.)


Verse 9

Daniel 8:9

And out of one of them came forth a little horn.

A Little Horn

If we would know who he is that is signified by this horn, it is necessary that we have his characteristic features and qualities exhibited before us, that we may survey them at one view.

1. He arose out of one of the four horns which were on the he-goat, i.e., one of the kingdoms into which the Grecian empire was divided.

2. He arose in the latter time of their kingdom.

3. He was little at first.

4. But he afterwards waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.

5. He fights immediately against God.

6. And the host of the saints.

7. This takes place at a time when the dally sacrifice is in use, while the sanctuary is yet standing, and when transgressions in Israel have come to the full. He takes away the sacrifice, and stamps upon and profanes the sanctuary.

8. This king prospers in his enterprises against God and the saints.

9. He is impudent and cruel.

10. Crafty and deceitful.

11. His power is great, yet there is another power concealed under it.

12. He is broken without hand, i.e., destroyed without the intervention of man. It is impossible for any who duly attends to these features and qualities to apply this prophecy to Mahomet, or to the kingdom of the Turks and Saracens. There does not appear to be any reason why we should depart from the ancient and commonly received interpretation, which applies this prophecy to Antiochus Epiphanes, especially as it speaks of a king, not of a kingdom, and specifies the personal qualities of this king, such as impudence, cruelty, cunning, and deceit, which are altogether inapplicable to a whole kingdom. He is a king raging with unexampled malignity against God and His people, and prefiguring an Antichrist who should not have his equal among all who had preceded him. (Magnus F. Roos, A.M.)


Verse 19

Daniel 8:19

At the time appointed the end shall be.

A Safe Prospective

Human nature anxiously desires to know something of the future. If we were told to-night that we could repair to a certain spot, where we might lift the veil of our own history, and foresee the course of our own lives during the next few years, I am afraid very few of us could be trusted to absent ourselves from such a place, or miss such an opportunity. Be persuaded, however, that with the exception of some grand feature, some magnificent outline which God has revealed, the future is absolutely shut from human eye; and as to the details which concern your life or mine, it is utterly impossible that we should over become acquainted with them by any manner of horoscope, or soothsaying, or bibliomancy. Why is it that the future is thus shut out from our view? Is it not because the present is enough to occupy our talents? Rightly to serve our God in this present hour will take all the strength we have, and all the strength we can obtain from God. Sufficient unto the day is not only the evil thereof, but the service thereof. Men who live too much in the past, and go beyond that which is rightly conservative, become of little service in the world; and men who are tempted to regulate their movements by forecasts of the future, will always become abstracted, speculative, empirical, full of sentiment, and void of assiduity, but certainly of no service whatever in the stern battle of to-day. God has concealed the future from us, probably, with a view to relieve our career through the world of dull monotony, and infuse into it new phases of stirring interest. Life would not wear such a lively aspect if it were all spread out in a map before us on the day of the commencement of our pilgrimage. Much of the pleasantness of a journey lies in unexpected views and scenes which burst upon the traveller as he climbs a hill or descends into a dale. If he could see all at once, one long, unvariegated avenue, it would become weary walking for him; but the very freshness and novelty of the events, adventures, and contingencies constantly occurrent, help to make life exciting, if not happy. Has not God also hid the future from us that we may not labour under the sense of being like “dumb driven cattle,” who have no will and no freedom, but both do and suffer what they are compelled by an agency irresistible? Moreover, is it not to be counted for a thousand mercies in one that all the future is concealed from us, since that future is of a very chequered character, casting, as one hath said, beams of hope and shadows of fear over the stage both of active and contemplative life? Some of it is bright with pleasure; much of it is dim with sorrow. What then if we knew the pleasure would come, should we not begin to reckon upon it? Surely the current of time would flow on heavily until the pleasant day arrived. Perhaps we should be really drawing bills at a very heavy discount upon the future if we knew it sufficiently to forestall the season of prosperity. And as for the troubles, the perils, and the afflictions that await us, if we knew of them beforehand, we should be pretty sure, with our natural tendency to graceless unbelief and morbid anxiety, to begin to carry the burden before the day came for us to carry it in. No, my Lord, it would be a fatal gift if thou wouldst bestow upon any one of us the power to know his own future.

I. First, then, it is well for us to remember that EVERYTHING IN THE FUTURE IS APPOINTED. Nothing shall happen to us which God has not foreseen. No unexpected event shall destroy His plans; no emergency shall transpire for which He has not provided; no peril shall occur against which He has not guarded. There shall come no remarkable event which shall take Him by surprise. He seeth the end from the beginning, and the things that are not, as though they were. To God’s eye there is no past and no future. We may derive no small comfort from this fact; for, suppose one goes to sea under the most skilful captain; that captain cannot possibly know what may occur during the voyage, and with the greatest foresight he can never promise an absolutely safe passage. There may be dangers which he has never yet encountered. But when you come into the ship of Providence, He who is at the helm is the Master of every wind that shall blow, and of every wave that shall break its force upon that ship; and He foresees as well the events that shall happen at the harbour for which we make, as those that happen at the port from which we start. How safe are we, then, when embarked in the good ship of Providence, with such a Captain who has fore-arranged and fore-ordained all things from the beginning even unto the end. And, furthermore, how much it becomes us to put implicit confidence in His guidance! It should always be remembered in connection with this subject that we are no believers in fate--seeing that fate is a different doctrine altogether from predestination. Fate says the thing is and must be; so it is decreed. But the true doctrine is--God has appointed this and that, not because it must be, but because it is best that it should be. Fate is blind, but the destiny of Scripture is full of eyes. Fate is stern and adamantine, and has no tears for human sorrow; but the arrangements of Providence are kind and good. The greatest good for the greatest number, and the glory of God above all, are the ends that are therein subserved. All the appointments of His providence, especially towards His people, are ruled in mercy, in tenderness, in love, and in wisdom, and all are conducive to their highest interest and their greatest happiness. Oh! but this is a blessed truth; oh! it is sweet, to be able to say, “From this day forth, whatever happeneth to me, be it little or be it great, I am content. Though I am altogether unaware what it shall be, I am not sorry that I am unaware of it; for this one thing I know, there shall happen nothing but what God permits; I shall be left to no demon’s power; I shall not be cast away like an orphan; I shall not be beyond my Father’s eye, and my Father’s hand.” If one could think that there was somewhere one grain of dust floating in the atmosphere that was not under Divine superintendence, one might wish to escape from it as from a plague. If one could believe that there was an hour of the night, or say a single second throughout the livelong year, in which the hand of God was withdrawn from nature, or a single event in which God was not concerned, and His will was not consulted, one might tremble till that black hour had passed, or till that dread event, like a vial full of evil, had been effectually poured out and put away. But now each hour is safe, for God has made it so. I would, with special earnestness, beg you to believe that God is in little things. It is the little troubles of life that annoy us the most. The little stones in the sandal make the traveller limp; while great stones do him little hurt, for he soon leaps over them. Believe that God arranges the littles. Take the little troubles as they come; remember them to your God, because they come frown God. Believe that nothing is little to God which concerns His people.

II. But now there is A SPECIAL APPOINTMENT WITH REGARD TO CERTAIN ENDS. I am not going to pursue the connection, but the text itself will suffice me, for it saith “at the time appointed the end shall be.” Now, there are certain “ends” to which you and I are looking forward with great expectancy. There is the end of the present trouble--let us think of that. Whatever submission we may have to the Divine will, it is not natural for us to love affliction; we desire to reach the end and come forth from the trial. “At the time appointed the end shall be.” You have been slandered in your character--a very frequent trial to God’s servants--and you are irritated and vexed, and in a great haste to answer it, to rebut the calumny and to vindicate your reputation. Be very quiet, and patient. Bear it all. Stand still and see the salvation of God, for light is sown for the righteous, and He will bring forth your righteousness like the light, and your judgment as the noonday. “At the time appointed the end shall be.” When the dogs are tired they will leave off barking, and when the Lord bids them be still, they shall not dare to move a tongue against you. You are in poverty. It is some time since you had a situation in which you could earn your dally tread. Are you a child of God? Have you learned to cast your burden upon the Lord? Then, “At the time appointed the end shall be.” There shall yet be deliverance for you. “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” It may be that the end you are desiring is greater usefulness, and you have been panting after this for years. You keep to your work still, for “At the time appointed the end shall be.” God will not suffer the faithful worker to work in vain; your labour of love shall not be in vain in the Lord. You are looking forward, some of you, to the end of your life’s battle. Life is to the genuine Christian an incessant fight. The moment we are converted the battle begins. But, glory be to God, “in the time appointed the end of this warfare shall be.” So, too, with the service of our lives. I think no servant of God is tired of serving his Master; we may be tired in the service, though not tired of it. It shall be all finished. The topstone of your life-work shall be brought out with shouting of “Grace, grace,” unto it You shall lay your crown at His feet from whom you received it, and yon shall hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” “In the time appointed the end shall be.” With many a child of God life is not merely a warfare spiritually, and a work for God outwardly, but it is attended with much of suffering. Ah! I know many servants of God whose every breath seems to be a pang; their poor bodies are in such a condition that life is like protracted death. Well, weary sufferer, “in the time appoint the end shall be.”

III. All things are appointed, and especially these sacred and blessed ends; but remember that besides the ends ALL THE MEANS TO THE ENDS are also appointed--all that intervenes is appointed too. Balance this thought with the other. My trouble appointed! Yes, but there is an appointed portion of grace that shall sustain me under it--grace exactly according to the measure of my necessity while under the tribulation. Temptation appointed! Yes, but there is appointed extraordinary help to deliver the soul from going down into the pit, and to pluck the foot out of the net, lost by any means one sheep of Christ should be devoured by the lion of hell. Thou fearest sickness, because that may be appointed, but it is also appointed, “I will make all his bed in his sickness,” and that appointment carries you over the other. And now, there is nothing in this truth that can give any comfort to those who are not reconciled to God. It is a great and terrible truth to those who are not God’s friends. At the time appointed the end shall be. What a winding up awaits those who will encounter the doom of the impenitent, no tongue can describe. Why rebel against the King of Heaven? Why set up thy will against the Divine will? (C. H. Spureon.)


Verse 25

Daniel 8:25

The Prince of Princes.

A Good Prince

This text calls attention to the four ancient empires, and the circumstances connected with the people of God in the various operations and doings of these empires.

I. THE PRINCE Jesus Christ, as the representative of His people, hath “power with God and with man, and hath prevailed.” He is an interposing Prince on behalf of a chosen people.

II. THE PRINCES. “The Prince of princes.” Jesus Christ has entire authority over the princes and kings of the earth. And His people, His companions are princes. They get their royal name after Him; the whole family in Heaven and earth are named after Him.

III. THE ADVERSARY. “He shall be broken without hand”; by the judgment of God independent of man (James Wells.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Daniel 8:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/daniel-8.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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