Daniel 8 –The Ram and the Goat

Daniel 8 is an expansion on the four-kingdom scheme of chapters 2 and 7, expanding on events during the third empire. The vision concerns the fall of Persia and the establishment of the Greek empire. As Miller observes, nearly every commentator agrees this prophecy concerns the events of the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, although they disagree on whether the events are prophetically described by Daniel or current events cast as prophecy by an unknown second century writer (Daniel, 219)

Ram, Goat

The time is identified as the third year of Belshazzar’s reign, about 550 B.C. About this same time Cyrus the Persian was consolidating his power with the Medes. About twelve years later Cyrus will capture Babylon while Belshazzar held a great banquet (Daniel 5).

Daniel is “in the citadel in Susa” (v.1). The city of Susa was built on the Ulai Canal and was the capitol of the Persian Empire. Was Daniel literally in the city of Susa? He may have been in the city on some business for the government of Babylon, or perhaps he retired to the city.  Josephus (Antiquities 10.11.7) seems to think he was physically in the city. It is more likely Daniel was transported in his vision to Susa. This is similar to Ezekiel’s visionary experience, he is caught up and taken from Babylon to Jerusalem to witness the glory of the Lord departing form the city (Ezek 8-11).

Daniel has an unusual vision of a ram fighting a goat (8:3-14) which is interrupted by an angelic guide in 8:15-26). A ram with two unequally sized horns represents the Medes and Persians (v. 20). This ram begins its conquest in the east and goes in the three other directions just as Persia was in the east and made conquests into the west (literally to the sea, the Mediterranean Sea), then south into Egypt and north into Asia Minor.

The goat with a prominent horn (8:5-8) is interpreted as the king of Greece (8:21), undoubtedly Alexander the Great. Some will point out the first king of Macedon was led to a location by a herd of goats where he founded a city, Aege, or the Goat City. The goat comes out of the west very fast and destroys the ram. This fits well with what we know about the conquest of the world by Alexander.  Alexander may have been motivated to conquest because of Persian invasions of Greece in 490 B.C. by Darius I and 480 by Xerxes.

After the prominent horn is cut off, it is replaced by four horn, likely referring to the Diadochi, the Greek generals who took parts of Alexander’s empire after his death. But they are not the main interest of this vision, Daniel saw a “little horn” (8:9-14), undoubtedly the same as the little horn in Daniel 7. Stephen Miller argues this is not possible, since the little horn in chapter 7 is associated with the blasphemy of the final kingdom prior to the establishment of the kingdom of God.  Chapter 8 concerns the Greek kingdom, the third beast in chapter 7 (Daniel, 225, note 22).

This little horn will cause some of the starry host to fall (8:10). This begins with the assassination of Onias III in 170, the sacking of the temple in 169, and the general persecution of Jews in the period which follows (see also 1 Maccabees 1:41-64; 2 Maccabees 6:1-5).

2 Maccabees 5:11-14 When news of what had happened reached the king, he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt. So, raging inwardly, he left Egypt and took the city by storm. 12 He commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly everyone they met and to kill those who went into their houses. 13 Then there was massacre of young and old, destruction of boys, women, and children, and slaughter of young girls and infants. 14 Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting, and as many were sold into slavery as were killed.

1 Maccabees 1:29-34 Two years later the king sent to the cities of Judah a chief collector of tribute, and he came to Jerusalem with a large force. 30 Deceitfully he spoke peaceable words to them, and they believed him; but he suddenly fell upon the city, dealt it a severe blow, and destroyed many people of Israel. 31 He plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. 32 They took captive the women and children, and seized the livestock. 33 Then they fortified the city of David with a great strong wall and strong towers, and it became their citadel. 34 They stationed there a sinful people, men who were renegades. These strengthened their position.

The little horn sets itself up as the “prince” of that fallen host (11). Antiochus attempted to set himself against God when he forbade the practice of the Jewish Law (1 Maccabees 1:41-50).

The little horn will take away the daily sacrifice and brought low the sanctuary (11). The daily sacrifice (tamid) was to be offered twice each day.  Priests offered sacrifices on behalf of all the people (Exodus 29:38-41, Numbers 28:3-8). In 167 B.C. Antiochus ordered these daily sacrifices to be stopped (1 Maccabees 1:44-45).

The sacrifices are suspended for 2300 days.  There are several schemes for showing paralleling with Antiochus’ suspension of sacrifice. Is this 1150 days, since there 2300 are morning and evening sacrifices?  Keil argues a Jewish reader would never read the text half-days, since a “morning and evening” is a complete day (Daniel, 304). This is a period of three years and 55 days, the period begins on just before the altar is desecrated and ends with the temple is rededicated in 168 B.C. Alternatively, the time from the murder of Onias III (the legitimate High Priest, killed by Antiochus) in 171 and the death of Antiochus in 164.

Does the little horn only refer to Antiochus? Is there any room for “future” fulfillment of these prophecies? Is this an example of multiple fulfillment of prophecy? Did Daniel’s vision only concern events leading up to the Maccabean Revolt, or did the vision concern a time events leading up to the coming of the Messiah in the future?

7 thoughts on “Daniel 8 –The Ram and the Goat

  1. I may say that certain translations or interpretations of these visions in chapter 8 could have a dimension of multiple fulfillments. At first, with the timeline of its recognition such as The Medes and Persia empires, and Greece with Alexander the Great historical context shows a representation of using the ram and goat and their powers within the horns as a symbolic meaning in defining their positions during that set time of history. As I read the second portion of the vision have an interpretation by Gabriel, there is another image of a person that sets in a later future tense period. This ultimate persecutor, the willful king (Long 78), “when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, understands riddles, cause fearful destruction, succeed, make deceit prosper, his own mind shall become great (Dan. 23-25 emphasized),” gives a clear description what we should be alert of with other pieces in place. This description alone is not enough because anyone could portray as being one. So, what would give us a clear focal view of what this vision translates to? Even Daniel had a hard time contemplating such suffering in the future, yet he continues with the king’s business. In verse 26 it says, “the vision of the evenings and mornings has been told is true, seal up the vision, it refers to many days from now,” this alone makes me think if this prophecy is yet to be completely fulfilled. Perhaps Daniel vision had some concerns with the leading up to the Maccabean Revolt, his vision was during King Belshazzar’s Reign in 550 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered and overtaking all of Persia’s former territory within 12 years. There is so much to learn knowing with territory comes dominance and power. Even to this day, we have powers competing who is bigger and better. Most likely we will eventually this more of this vision being unveil in our present or soon.

    Like

  2. I think these words of Daniel do indeed refer to multiple points in history and therefore a multiple fulfillment prophecy. As stated above, scholars for the most part agree that clear lines can be drawn from the description of these events to the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. We do reach a point in Daniel where the text starts to separate itself from events that happened during the reign of Antiochus, which is where I believe it starts to refer to a separate and later time. When this was written, Daniel did not know about Jesus Christ as the Messiah. When we read this in with our modern context, it’s easy enough for us to see the references to the ‘son of man’ as Jesus, because we know he is the Messiah that came to earth and promised that He would return at the end to usher in His kingdom (Matthew 24). For Daniel, he had his vision interpreted by an angel, but not with details as specific as when this would occur or who the characters would be. It was unknown to him then, but it is reasonable enough to think that this is referring to an event that has not happened yet, and could very well be the end times.

    Like

  3. The ram fighting the goat in Daniel 8 remains an interesting passage in scripture. What amazes me is the representation of the ram as real political leaders such as the Medes and Persians empire in verse 20 as well as the goat with a prominent horn as Alexander the Great. I suppose that this is basic biblical prophecy but I still wanted to mention how incredible and inspired the word of God is. Moving on down with the article, it is written that “Antiochus attempted to set himself against God when he forbade the practice of the Jewish Law” ( 1 Maccabees 1:41-50). This is the end result of the little horn setting itself up as the prince of that fallen host in verse 11 sot yes, the little horn refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. However, I do believe there is room for future fulfilment in this prophecy as the beast (anti-Christ) in the book of Revelation 13 describes a similar type of horn. Of course we can’t 100% confirm this but if we are being consistent with Scripture then the two have to line up pretty close together.

    Like

  4. This passage in scripture is what my Major Paper will be covering so I am glad that I get a chance to see this post before typing that paper out. I found that Daniel’s vision of the ram and the goat was something that seemed intriguing. The ram and goat had a deeper meaning other than two big animals fighting all over the North, South, East, and West. The ram represented the Persian Empire that was ruling over the land and the Goat represented Alexander the Great. Goat comes from the west and then destroys the ram after it destroys the rest of the nation. ” I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. 8 The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.” (Daniel 8: 7-8) When the goat was done fighting the ram, his single horn fell off and then four more horns grew in its place.

    Like

  5. The Ram and the Goat
    To sum up the question about if, “the horn could be Antiochus or someone else that just hasn’t happened yet?” but first I think it’s important to realize how accurate the scholars have been with interpreting those visions. If you have been keeping up with any of my recent comments dealing with apocalyptic literature and or prophecy, you know that I struggle with many options for what the interpretation could be. All that just means that there’s a lot of room for error. I say all that because, concerning this vision that Daniel had of the Ram and the Goat, there was a common theme that I read during the blog post was that nearly every scholar or commentator agrees on something. That gives me confidence in the true meaning of what the vision meant.
    To answer the question of whether the horn was Antiochus or someone else that will come in the future. I believe we need to consider what I have talked about in the comment. There is a common pattern that this vision is fairly easy to interpret. If nearly all scholars agree that it would make the most sense for the horn to Antiochus, then I am fine with believing that. As long as all the cards fall into place.
    Now could there be a possibility of this horn being someone else? Yes, it’s okay to have an open mind with interpretation. I would prefer a confident answer, but if this horn is someone else, that just means some history could change, and or we have some cool prophecy to be fulfilled.

    Like

  6. In the book of Daniel chapter 8, the ram fighting the goat was a very interesting chapter. It was crazy in the interpretation of the vision when Daniel said that the two-horned ram that represented the kings of Media and Persia. But then the Goat had the four horns, at which represented the four different kingdoms. Those kingdoms were not at the same power as the two larger kingdoms. Throughout the book of Daniel, it was never stated that the little horn only referred to Antiochus, at which there is room for future fulfillment for these prophecies. Daniels vision concerned a time of events leaning up to the coming of the messiah in the future. “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.” (Daniel 8:26) This passage explains how the vision concerns for the “distant future” meaning there is something to come at a later date.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.