Daniel’s Vision of the Ram and the Goat
Daniel’s Vision in Belshazzar’s Third Year (8:1)
A Ram (8:2–4)
The ram is the Medo-Persian Empire, and the two horns are the Median and Persian kingdoms, which this empire included.
A Male Goat Attacks and Defeats the Ram (8:5–7)
The goat comes from the west, representing the Greek invasion of the Near East by Alexander the Great, who is the goat’s single horn. Alexander defeated the Medo-Persian Empire in three years. Alexander never lost a battle. The Medo-Persian Empire never won a battle.
The Horns on the Male Goat (8:8)
The four new horns of the goat, representing four rulers with dominion in four different areas (“toward the four winds of heaven,” 8:8), match the four wings and four heads of the leopard in 7:6, which likewise represents the Greek Empire.
A Little Horn on One of the Goat’s Horns (8:9–12)
The similarities are intentional, because the little horn in this vision is a foreshadowing of the little horn of Daniel 7. Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ persecution of the Jews in the second century BC was a precursor of the greater persecution of God’s people by the Antichrist throughout the church age (end-times from Christ’s ascension to His second coming).
An Angel Inquires about the Length of the Little Horn’s Activity (8:13–14)
The Festival of Hanukkah
Daniel’s prophecy of an end to profaning the temple was fulfilled when Judas Maccabaeus recaptured Jerusalem, cleansed the temple, and erected a new altar. This led to the establishment of a new religious observance for Jews from that time onward. Judas and the assembly in Jerusalem established an eight-day festival to commemorate the dedication of the altar, which is known as Hanukkah, meaning “dedication” (the term used in the Aramaic of 3:2–3 for the “dedication” of Nebuchadnezzar’s idolatrous statue). This festival was celebrated by Jesus, who went to Jerusalem at its time (Jn 10:22–39).
The Millerite Tradition and Daniel 8:14
William Miller, a Baptist layman, believed that the 2,300 years began in 457 BC and therefore Jesus would return to earth in 1844. When this did not happen, he and his followers experienced the “Great Disappointment.” Those who remained in the Millerite movement reinterpreted the disappointment in various ways. One of these led to the founding of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination, which still defends Miller’s questionable hermeneutical theory of equating a day with a year.
Gabriel Explains the Vision of the Ram and the Goat
Gabriel Is Told to Explain the Vision to Daniel (8:15–18)
Daniel is frightened and falls prostrate and became unconscious (sleep).
In Ezekiel’s prophetic call, the Spirit entered him and enabled him to stand and receive the divine Word (Ezek 2:1–3). The touch represented the conferral of forgiveness and strength to carry out the prophetic role. The mouths of Isaiah (6:7) and Jeremiah (1:9) were touched to enable their ministry of preaching. Daniel is not called to be a preacher, but a seer and author (7:1; 8:26; 12:4).
Gabriel Explains the Ram and the Male Goat (8:19–22)
Gabriel quickly and concisely explains the ram and the goat (8:21–22), but then he slows down to concentrate on the explanation of the little horn (8:23–25).
Gabriel Explains the Little Horn (8:23–26)
The vision slows down to give particular attention to the persecution of God’s people under the (Greek) Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 BC).
Like the serpent in Gen 3:1, Antiochus would use his shrewdness to perceive how to deceive and seduce God’s people into sin and apostasy. Thus it implies that he would use his insight in sinister and duplicitous ways, as affirmed in 8:25.
Antiochus defied “the Prince of princes” (8:25), God himself, not only by claiming to be God Manifest but also when he defiled the temple and converted it into a place for worship of the Greek gods (1 Macc 1:54; 2 Macc 6:1–2).
Antiochus would be mighty and successful, but “not by his own power” (8:24).
The purpose of this closing of the vision is so that the wise—those who have faith in God—will be able to understand and use Daniel’s vision, but others will not.
Daniel’s Reaction to the Vision (8:27)
Daniel’s reaction to the vision is similar to the toll the previous vision took on him (7:15, 28). However, his reaction here is more extreme, perhaps because he understood that this vision predicted severe persecution against his people.
This is a reminder that all the earthly power of governing authorities derives ultimately from God (Dan 2:21; 4:32; Rom 13:1). God’s will is always for them to do good, and so evil rulers are abusing their God-given authority. Nevertheless, God may permit them to do evil for a period of time when this serves his overarching plan of salvation, as Jesus affirmed about Pilate (Jn 19:11). God’s will is always to drive people to repentance and bring his faithful believers to everlasting salvation.