Daniel 8 God's Declaration of the End... From the Beginning

Home >  Full Study List >  Daniel 8 God's Declaration of the End... From the Beginning

Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 8

God's Declaration of the End... From the Beginning

by I Gordon

We saw in Daniel chapter 7 that God gave Daniel a vision of the four coming world empires. In this chapter, two of those kingdoms are discussed in more detail. Whereas chapter 7 focuses predominantly on the Roman empire and it's form in the last days leading up to the return of Jesus, this chapter focuses on the kingdoms of Medo-Persia and Greece. This is one of those chapters that critics say must have been written after the event! 'No one can declare what is to come' they say. Well, no man can but God does over and over again in His word and He reveals it to His servants so that we can test whether He truly is God!  [1] 

This study then will look at what God has declared about these two world empires, but more importantly it will focus on a particular character mentioned at the end of the chapter whose ultimate fulfilment is still to come!

The two horned ram versus the shaggy goat

Daniel 8:1-8 In the third year of King Belshazzar's reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great. As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage. I saw him attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram from his power. The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.

Now as a bit of background, the year is probably 551 B.C and Daniel is in the third year of King Belshazzar's reign. Babylon is still the ruling world power but is on the decline. Once again, God gives Daniel a vision and Daniel sees himself in Susa  [2]  viewing a strange kind of battle. He sees a two horned ram that no animal could stand against. It went north, it went west, and it went south. It just went where it pleased and it was totally powerful and dominant. Well, totally dominant that is until it came across the shaggy goat with the prominent horn! Never mess with them. To cut a long story short, the goat smashed the ram and trampled all over it. This goat then became the 'numero uno' but at the height of its power its prominent horn was broken off and four lesser horns grew up. Right... you all clear on that then? As the Bible isn't usually a book about animal welfare (or warfare), let's have a look at what this all means. And we don't need to guess (which always helps) because the answer and interpretation of this vision is given to Daniel later in the chapter. We'll look at that interpretation now.

So just who is this shaggy horned goat then? 

Daniel 8:15-22 'While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man's voice from the Ulai calling, "Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision." As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. "Son of man," he said to me, "understand that the vision concerns the time of the end." While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet. He said: "I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end.  The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king  . The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.'

The interpretation to our mysterious vision is given by none other than Gabriel himself. Now we need to remember that at this stage Babylon was the world empire so the information that Daniel was about to receive couldn't even be called 'hot off the press'. This was news before it had even occurred! Now that would sell a few papers... But back to the story - Gabriel tells Daniel that the two horned ram stands for the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians. You will remember from Daniel chapter 7 that this was represented by the beast resembling a bear that was raised up on one side. In like manner, the kingdom is seen in this chapter having one horn larger than the other. Both pictures were indicating that within this kingdom, Persia would grow larger and would come to dominate Media.

Now we know from history and the book of Daniel that this was the kingdom that captured Babylon and became the next world empire. No one could defeat the Medes and the Persians... well, until the prominent king of Greece comes upon the stage  [3]  . This again corresponds with the vision given in the preceding chapter where Daniel was shown a beast like a four winged leopard (Greece) coming next after the beast like a bear (Medo-Persia). In this vision, the goat is seen charging across the earth without touching the ground. Like a leopard with wings this emphasises the speed of which Alexander the Great moved his Greek army to conquer the ancient world.  [4]  We read above that the goat attacked the ram with such force that it shattered both of the ram's horns. Thus did Alexander the Great do to the then dominant world empire of the Medes and the Persians.

And yet, at the height of its power, the prominent horn of the goat was broken and four other horns took its place. I'm sure you know the story... At the ripe old age of 32 Alexander the Great died  [5]  and his kingdom was divided between his four generals (Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus and Cassander).

And a little horn shall start to rise...

Daniel 8:9-14 'Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, "How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled - the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?" He said to me, "It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated." '

As Daniel watched, a fifth horn began to arise. It started from small beginnings but eventually grew right into the heavens. This horn exalted itself and desecrated the Jewish temple. We are even given the exact period of time for which this desecration would last - 2,300 evenings and mornings.

Now, this is where things get interesting. There is no doubt from the context and history that this little horn is the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus had a small beginning but through bribery and corruption he became the king in the Seleucid division of the Greek empire. He attacked many around him but reserved his full hatred for the Jewish nation of Israel. The true worship of the God of Israel was substituted and sacrifices and offerings to the Greek gods were made from within the Jewish temple. The temple was desecrated, as prophesied, for 2,300 days  [6]  (from Sep 6th, 171 BC to Dec 25th, 165 BC).

So as I said, the context is certainly about Antiochus and this was fulfilled in history. But scholars disagree whether the interpretation given by Gabriel involves Antiochus alone. Many, and I would agree, see that the interpretation propels us yet forward to another of whom Antiochus is but a small reflection  [7]  . This one is a coming world leader whose hatred and destruction of the Jews shall surpass all before him in history.  [8]  He is the 'little horn' of Daniel chapter 7. He is the 'man of sin' in 2 Thess 2. He is the 'beast' of Revelation 13. Or, as he is more commonly known, he is the Antichrist of 1 John 2. So let's have a look at Gabriel's interpretation and see what light it can shed of both Antiochus and the man of whom he is but a type - the Antichrist.

The coming king of fierce countenance

Daniel 8:23-27 "In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. "The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future." I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king's business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.

Gabriel's description of the coming king denotes an incredibly clever and deceptive man whose power is not of natural means.  [9]  Comparing the prophecies of this coming man from Daniel with the New Testament description is hopefully quite helpful. Let's have a look.

Daniel's Revelation New Testament Revelation

Vs 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power.

Rev 13:2 'And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard... and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

Vs 24 He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does.

Rev 13:3-4 All the world wondered after the beast... and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?

Vs 24 He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people

Rev 13:7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.

Vs 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior.

Rev 13:5,13-14 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words... It performs great signs... and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth.

2nd Thes 2:3-4,9-10 The man of lawlessness... who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship... The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing...

Vs 25 When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes

1 Thess 5:2 While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

Rev 19:19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse (Jesus - the King of Kings)

Vs 25 Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.

2 Thess 2:8 The lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.


Daniel 8:26-27 "The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future." I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king's business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.

After this vision Daniel was exhausted! He lay ill for several days and was astonished and appalled at what he saw. In these verses, and in many others, God has revealed the end from the beginning. The vision of the end is astonishing. It can be appalling. But it is also encouraging. God has not only revealed the destruction of the Antichrist but also the victory of His son! And because of this we have hope. We know who wins! We can turn and read the end of the book and be completely assured of the wonderful plan that God has to bring about the return and reign of the King of Kings. Rest assured that God declares the end from the beginning and His word cannot fail. Just make sure that you have made your peace with Him and are on the right side!

The last point to note is that Daniel, having seen this epic vision which exhausted him for several days, finally rose up and went about the king's business. Are you doing that? Are you going about the King's business? May our study of Bible prophecy propel us further in doing so. May we see what is coming and be further encouraged in 'doing the king's business'. Our King is the King of kings. We will never lose out by serving Him!

[1] ↩  The true God challenges other so-called 'gods' (which are either demonic entities or the vain imaginations of men) to show themselves to be 'Gods'. The test is simple... Just declare the things that are still to come. If you can do that then yeah, ok, you pass the test. Here is how the true God issues this challenge in Isaiah 41:21-23:

'  Set forth your case, says the LORD; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob. Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods  ...'

So far no one apart from the God of the Bible has passed the test! No other religious writings contain detailed prophecies of the things to come. Over 30% of the Bible is dedicated to prophecy of things to come!

[2] ↩  'Susa - Though then comparatively insignificant, it was destined to be the capital of Persia after Cyrus' time. Therefore Daniel is transported into it, as being the capital of the kingdom signified by the two-horned ram (Neh_1:1; Est_1:2-5).' (Jaimeson, Fausset and Brown Commentary)

[3] ↩  J. Vernon McGee writes: '  Xerxes was the last great ruler of Persia, and he made a foray against Europe, against Greece. He moved with an army of 300,000 men and their families. The Greeks were smart - they didn't go out to meet him. Instead, they waited until he got to Thermopylae, which was a narrow pass into which he could not fit a big army. Since one Greek soldier was equal to at least ten of the Medo-Persians, who were not a trained and disciplined army as the Greeks were, the Greeks gained the victory at Thermopylae. They decimated that tremendous Persian army as it attempted to advance through the pass a few soldiers at a time. And then at Salamis, Xerxes' fleet of three hundred vessels was destroyed by a storm. When word was brought to him that his fleet had been destroyed, he went down to the sea, took off his belt, and beat the waves with it - they had destroyed his fleet! I would say that that was not the action of an outstanding and intelligent man, by any means.  '

[4] ↩  Dr Renald Showers, in his book 'The Most High God' writes about Alexander the Great saying:  'Alexander the Great possessed unique intelligence. In spite of his youth (he was only twenty two when he began to attack Medo-Persia), he amazed the ancient world with his military genius. Although he was opposed by much larger armies and greater financial resources than his own, his personal resourcefulness at devising successful tactics enabled him to crush the mighty Medo-Persian kingdom in about three years (334-331 BC). 

[5] ↩  J. Vernon McGee again comments well saying: 'W  e are told that when he came to power, the whole world was under the heel of Alexander the Great. Tradition says that he sat down and wept because there were no more worlds to conquer - he had conquered the then-known world. However, in the midst of his vast projects, he was seized by a fever after a nightlong drinking bout, and he died in Babylon in the year 323 B.C. at the age of thirty-two. 'When he was strong, the great horn was broken." All three of these empires - the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, and the Graeco-Macedonian - went down in a drunken orgy... The great empire of Alexander the Great went down because he was an alcoholic. He conquered the world, but he could not conquer Alexander the Great. 

[6] ↩  Even though the Bible clearly tells us that this desecration would last 2,300 mornings and evenings, in the 1800's the Millerites believed that this should be taken as 2,300 years. Thus, they came up with a date of 1844 for the return of Jesus. Believing that this was when Jesus would return many left their jobs and waited for His return. This became known as 'the great disappointment' for this year obviously came and went without any such event. Many within the Seventh Day Adventist churches still believe that this date was correct but have come up with the 'Investigative judgement' theory that states that Jesus didn't enter into the Holy of holies in Heaven until 1844. This also is a load of rubbish based on a faulty interpretation of Daniel 8. This is one of the main doctrines that has seen considerable debate and splits among their own theologians within the SDA churches over the last 40 years.

[7] ↩  There is no doubting that the vision pertained to Antiochus but the interpretation given by the angel seems to propel us right through to the end. The angel's first words seem to confirm this - '  And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.'  (KJV) In connection to Bible prophecy the 'Indignation' is a term used of God's judgement of Israel and the angel was coming to declare the 'last end' of that period before the end shall come. This would thrust us forward to the coming tribulation period. Also when you look at the description of the coming leader and see that he will be mighty but not by his own power and that he will be broken without human agency we see a description of the evil one described in 2 Thes 2  'whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power'... 'whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.' 

[8] ↩  Antiochus Ephihanes is the greatest type of the coming Antichrist that there is in scripture. Hitler is probably the best type of the Antichrist that there is outside of scripture. This will be covered in more detail in the Daniel chapter 11 study if interested.

[9] ↩  It is hard not to think again of Adolf Hitler at this time as a type. Hitler was heavily into the occult and mastered in deception. When Hitler looked threatening in 1938, England's Prime Minister Chamberlin met with Hitler and an Anglo-German peace accord was signed. Hitler loved to say one thing and do another. As Chamberlin left that meeting, Hitler is reported to have said 'there goes a worm of a man.' Chamberlin returned from that meeting jubilant declaring to all the now famous and naive line 'there will be peace in our time.' Hitler was awarded the 1938 Time Magazine 'Man of the year'. (Which is nearly, but not quite, on the same level of stupidity as giving Yasser Arafat the Nobel Peace prize!) One year later Hitler's true intentions are shown and WWII begins. Thank goodness for Britain and the world that Chamberlin was replaced by Churchill!