Setting Date Overview Commentary
1 In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.
2 And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.
3 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.
4 I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.
5 And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.
6 And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.
7 And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.
8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.
9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.
10 And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.
12 And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.
13 Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?
14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
15 And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.
16 And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.
17 So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.
18 Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright.
19 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.
20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.
21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.
23 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
24 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
25 And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.
26 And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.
27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.
See the setting of chapters 5 and 7 for a discussion of the political situation in the ancient world at this time.
At the time of this vision, Elam (Daniel 8:2) was probably still a Babylonian province, though it was taken over by Cyrus some time before the fall of Babylon.
See chapter 7 for how we arrive at the dates of Belshazzar's reign. The first year of his reign was 553/552 B.C. His third year, the date given in chapter 8:1, would have begun in the spring of 551 B.C.
This is the second major vision of the prophet Daniel. In the vision he saw a ram which had two horns, one of which was higher than the other, the higher one having come up last. The ram pushed westward, and northward, and southward, and nothing could stand in its way.
Then Daniel saw a goat rushing in from the west, which attacked the ram, threw it to the ground, and stamped upon it. This goat had a notable horn between his eyes, but at the height of his power, the horn was broken, and four horns took its place, which spread towards the four winds of heaven.
Then there appeared from some direction a little horn, which exceeded the power of the ram or of the goat. This horn made not only geographical advances on earth, but also spiritual attacks against heaven.
The activities of this horn against heaven and against the sanctuary, and the promise of those things being set right again after a predicted period of time, is the focus of this vision.
When the vision was over, the angel Gabriel, by God's instruction, appeared to Daniel and explained the meaning of the ram and of the goat. He then mentioned the activities of the little horn, but did not elaborate on the time prophecy. Because of this, Daniel fainted and was sick for some time, because he could not understand the significance of the time prophecy portion of the vision.
Verse 2 Text
"At Shushan in the palace"
Shushan is Susa. Centuries earlier, the city had been the capital of the nation of Elam. Later, in the time of Esther, the city would serve as a capital of Persia (Esther 1:2). The ruins of the great palace built by King Darius Hystaspes still may be seen there. The word translated "palace" in Daniel 8:2 means citadel, or as we would say, capital.
Verse 3 Text
"A ram which had two horns"
This symbol is identified in verse 20 as "the kings of Media and Persia." Whereas the visions of chapters 2 and 7 began with the kingdom of Babylon, chapters 8 and 11 begin with Medo-Persia.
"One was higher than the other, and the higher came up last"
The Medes were originally the more prominent of the two nations, but from the time of Cyrus the Great the Persians dominated the combined kingdom, achieving a status in the world which the Medes had never experienced.
Verse 4 Text
"Westward, and northward, and southward"
The significant conquests of Persia include Lydia to the west in 547 B.C., Babylon (which in prophecy is usually signified as "north") in 539 B.C., and Egypt (always "south" in prophecy) in 525 B.C.
Verse 5 Text
"An he goat came from the west"
This symbol is identified in verse 21 as the kingdom of Greece, which was indeed west of Persia.
"Touched not the ground"
This metaphor of swiftness reminds us that this same kingdom was described in chapter 7 as a leopard with "four wings of a fowl." Today we describe fast-moving things as "flying."
"A notable horn"
This horn is identified in verse 21 as the first king of the worldwide Macedonian Greek Empire. That, of course, was Alexander the Great.
Verse 7 Text
"Smote the ram"
In 331 B.C. Alexander the Great defeated Darius III at the battle of Arbela. That victory marked the passing of world dominance from Persia to Greece.
Verse 8 Text
"When he was strong, the great horn was broken"
Alexander conquered Persia and took possession of the wealth of the world's greatest empire when only 25 years old. He conquered the world, but he never learned to conquer his own intemperance. At 32 years of age, after a binge of hard drinking, Alexander died of swamp fever. Thus at the height of his power, the great king fell.
"And for it came up four notable ones"
For 22 years after the death of Alexander a stuggle went on in the empire to determine if the kingdom would remain united or be divided. In 306 B.C. Antigonus declared himself king of the whole empire. But his four opponents, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy, not standing for that, declared themselves kings in their respective territories: Macedonia, Thrace, Babylonia, and Egypt. The question was finally settled in 301 B.C. when Antigonus was killed and the empire was divided by the four kings.
This arrangement, as described in this verse, lasted only about 20 years, until 281 B.C. when Seleucus killed Lysimachus and took over his territory. The resulting three-part division generally receives the focus of historians, yet the original division, as noted in the prophecy, was four-part.
"The four winds of heaven"
This simply means the four points of the compass.
Verse 9 Text
"Out of one of them"
Does "them" refer to the four horns or the four winds of verse 8? If the closest antecedent is to be accepted, "them" must refer to "winds."
The gender of the Hebrew words also lends support to "winds" being the correct antecedent. The word for "them" in verse 9 is masculine. This could apply only to "winds," which may be either masculine or feminine, but "horns" are only feminine. The word for "one" in verse 9 is feminine, which could apply to either "horns" or "winds." But since "them" can refer only to winds, we must conclude that the word "one" in verse 9 must also refer to "winds."
Thus the power introduced in verse 9 did not arise out of one of the divisions of the Greek Empire. Instead, it arose from some other place, from one of the four points of the compass.
"A little horn"
Following the pattern of kingdoms set in chapters 2 and 7, the next nation to emerge was that of Rome. It arose in the west, not within any of the divisions of the Greek Empire.
The ram was described in verse 4 as "great." The he goat became "very great" (verse 8). By comparison, the little horn became "exceeding great." This must therefore be a nation whose power exceeded that of both the Persian and Greek empires. Only the mighty empire of Rome could fit this description.
"Toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land"
"The south." The first major obstacle to Rome's imperial destiny was Carthage, at that time the dominant power of the Western Mediterranean. Through what are known as the Punic Wars, fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BC, Rome was able to conquer the North African based empire, destroy the city of Carthage, and emerge as the most powerful state in the West.
"The east." In the Roman-Syrian War (192-188 BC) the Seleucid Empire lost Asia Minor to Roman allies, the most notable of which was Pergamum whose king in 133 BC bequeathed his whole kingdom to Rome. Syria itself was annexed to the Roman Republic in 64 BC by Pompey as an outcome of the Third Mithridatic War (73-63 BC).
"The pleasant land." Shortly after his successful conclusion of third Mithridatic War, Pompey conquered Jerusalem in 63 BC, ending Jewish independence and incorporating Judea into the Roman Republic as a client kingdom.
Verse 10 Text
"And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven"
1 Kings 22:19 says, "I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left." This host undoubtedly refers to the "many angels round about the throne." Revelation 5:11. Thus God is "the Lord of hosts," and Christ is the "captain of the host of the Lord." Psalm 46:7; Isaiah 6:3; Joshua 5:14.
Here the little horn begins to assume a new role as Rome moves from a physical to a spiritual phase of activity. Two Phases of Rome
"And it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground"
In its new religious sphere, the little horn is described as directing its activities against "the host of heaven." "Stars" in prophecy symbolize angels (Revelation 1:20; Job 38:7; Revelation 12:4). How could the little horn do anything against the inhabitants of heaven? Comparing Daniel 8:10, 11 with Revelation 13:6, it appears that the little horn works to undermine the redemptive work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, a work in which all heaven is engaged.
Verse 11 Text
"Yea, he magnified himself"
This verse is describing the activities of the little horn. We noticed above that the little horn in this chapter represents Rome in its two phases. Phase one occurred under the rule of the caesars and emperors. Phase two represents the rule of the Catholic bishops and popes. The transition to the second phase occurs in verse 10, where the little horn's activities enter the spiritual realm. Verse 11, therefore, portrays the activites of the Roman papacy.
"Even to the prince of the host"
These are the same Hebrew words translated "captain of the host" in Joshua 5:14, referring to the Son of God.
"And from him the daily sacrifice was taken away" (margin)
Notice that the word "sacrifice" is italicized in the Authorized Version, indicating that it is a supplied word and was not in the original. So the verse actually says, "from him the daily was taken away." What is the "daily" which was "taken away" from Jesus by the papacy?
The "daily" is mentioned five times in the book of Daniel (8:11, 12, 13; 11:31; 12:11). The Hebrew word is tamid. Tamid is found more than a hundred times in the Old Testament, either as an adjective or an adverb, and is usually translated "continual," "perpetual," "always," or "ever." It is used in connection with every aspect of the sanctuary service. In addition to describing the daily sacrifices (which evidently is what the King James translators had in mind), tamid is also used to describe each of these sanctuary functions.
So whereas the KJV makes it look like the verse is talking about sacrifices being affected by the little horn, the word "sacrifice" is not even in the original Hebrew. The original word is one often used in the Old Testament to describe all the functions of the sanctuary. For this reason, some commentators have suggested a translation such as "the perpetual service" or "continual mediation."
In other words, the little horn has worked to "take away" or to undermine the continual mediatorial work of Christ. That is what the "daily" signifies in the book of Daniel.
"And the place of his sanctuary was cast down"
The word "place" in the King James Version of Daniel 8:11 is makon, the same word which is italicized in the following verses:
"Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for
ever." Psalm 104:5.
"Justice and judgment are the habitation [or foundation] of thy throne." Psalm 89:14.
"Righteousness and judgment are the habitation [or foundation] of his throne." Psalm 97:2.
The word carries the meaning of "a basis" (Strong's Hebrew dictionary #4349).
The makon of His sanctuary refers to "the basis/foundation of God's sanctuary in heaven. Thus the horn's act involves an interference in the sense of making of no effect the 'foundation' or 'basis' (makon) of the heavenly sanctuary from which issue divine righteousness and justice. . . . In other words, the anti-God horn power attacks the very basis of the intercession of the heavenly sanctuary with its mediatorial and saving activities on behalf of the faithful." (Gerhard Hasel, Symposium on Daniel, Frank B. Holbrook, editor, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series, vol. 2, p. 414.)
Verse 12 Text
"And an host was given him against the daily"
This parallels Daniel 11:31 which says, "And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily." By the use of armed forces the little horn would attack the basis of Christ's mediatorial work in the heavenly sanctuary.
"And it cast down the truth to the ground"
The damage done by the little horn is doctrinal in nature. It involves a suppression of the truth.
Verse 13 Text
"That certain saint"
The word "saint" is supplied. "Certain" is a combination of two Hebrew words. The first is either pali or pala. The second word is mena. Each are applied in Scripture to the Lord.
"And the angel of the Lord [Jesus] said unto him, Why askest thou thus my name, seeing it is secret?" Judges 13:18.
"Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom." Daniel 5:26.
The margin says, "Heb. Palmoni, the numberer of secrets, or, the wonderful numberer." This is undoubtedly a reference to Jesus. Therefore, the question asked in Daniel 8:13 is addressed to Jesus, and Jesus is the one who gives the answer in Daniel 8:14.
"How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?"
The question, "How long," is actually, "Until when . . . ?"
This question, asked by a heavenly being, shows the intensity of the interest expressed by all heaven in the success of Christ's work for man. Angels themselves could not help but wonder how long the little horn would be permitted to suppress the truth about the mediatorial work of Jesus.
Verse 14 Text
This word is used to introduce the judgment in each of the major symbolic prophecies in the book of Daniel:
"Two thousand and three hundred"
In context this is an ordinal, not cardinal, number. (Cardinal numbers are 1, 2, 3, etc.; ordinal numbers are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.)
Literally, "evening morning." An evening and a morning is one day (Genesis 1:5). The words used here are singular, not plural. It doesn't say, "days," but "day." So to the question, "Until when shall be the vision?" Jesus answers, "Until the 2300th day."
In symbolic time prophecies, each prophetic day represents a year. 2300 prophetic days stands for 2300 actual years, making this the longest time prophecy in all the Bible.
"Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed"
In the 2300th year, the sanctuary would be cleansed.
And that was the end of Daniel's vision. Daniel had no idea what sanctuary they were talking about, or what would be its cleansing. And how can you calculate the 2300th year if you don't know in what year to begin counting? These unanswered questions were of great concern to the prophet. Thus in verse 15 Daniel "sought for the meaning."
In verse 16 the angel Gabriel was commissioned to explain the vision to the prophet. Gabriel began by saying that the vision pertains to "the time of the end." Verse 17. "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." Verse 19. In verses 20-25 Gabriel explained the meaning of the Ram which Daniel had been shown in verse 3, of the goat presented in verse 5, of the great horn on that goat, and of the four horns which followed it. He then described the "king of fierce countenance" which would succeed those kingdoms, with its political and spiritual conquests. But when Gabriel arrived at the time portion of the vision, all he said was, "And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true." Verse 26. No explanation of the 2300 days was given. Gabriel then instructed Daniel to "shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days."
Daniel was sick! The very thing he wanted to know was left unexplained. Verse 27 says, "And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it."
Thirteen years passed. Daniel's deep concern for the sanctuary had not lessened. "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." What could that mean? The only sanctuary he knew about was the one which lay in ruins in Jerusalem.
Daniel opened the books of Jeremiah, a contemporary prophet who had not been taken to Babylon. There he read that Jerusalem would be desolate for only 70 years (Daniel 9:2). That period was almost up. But would the house of God, the holy sanctuary, not be restored for 2300 years? This was the cause of Daniel's great prayer recorded in Daniel 9:4-19.
"And whiles I was speaking, and praying," wrote Daniel, "even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, . . . touched me. . . . And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision." Daniel 9:20-23.
In Daniel 9:24-27, Gabriel provided the explanation of the time portion of chapter 8's vision for which Daniel had so long waited. He explained that only the first 70 prophetic weeks (490 years) of the prophecy pertained to the Jews. Jerusalem would be restored and rebuilt, but the ultimate fate of their city and sanctuary was tied to the coming of the Messiah.
But the great contribution of chapter 9 to the prophecy of chapter 8, is the establishment of the starting point for the whole prophetic period. Daniel 9:25 places the beginning of the time prophecy at "the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." Since Gabriel's announced purpose in chapter 9 was to complete his explanation of chapter 8, the historical anchors he sets must be taken as that explanation. The 2300 days (literally 2300 years) of Daniel 8:14 would commence with the going forth of that historic decree regarding Jerusalem. Thus the "cleansing of the sanctuary" would commence 2300 years from the going forth of that decree.
The commentary on chapter 9 establishes the decree of King Artaxerxes of Persia in 457 B.C. as the specified starting point. The calculations presented there show the "70-week" period to end in the fall of A.D. 34. Remember, there was no year "zero." Subtracting 490 years (70 prophetic weeks) from the total 2300 leaves a difference of 1810 years remaining. Add those 1810 years to the year A.D. 34, and we find that the 2300 years ended in the fall of the year 1844. At that time the "sanctuary" would be "cleansed."
But what sanctuary? Certainly not the Jewish temple, for the Jews' period of divine favor ended with the 70 weeks. Their temple was destroyed in A.D. 70.
The answer to this question is found in Hebrews 8 and 9. There we learn that inasmuch as "the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary" (Hebrews 9:1), so there is a "sanctuary, . . . the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Hebrews 8:2), "a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands" (Hebrews 9:11), "in the heavens" (Hebrews 8:1). There Christ ministers as our great High Priest. "For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things." So, all the services of the Old Testament sanctuary were designed as an example and shadow of heavenly things. The sanctuary on earth was an illustration of the sanctuary in heaven. The priests on earth symbolized our heavenly Priest, Jesus.
As we examine the services of the earthly sanctuary, we learn much about Christ's work of saving man. The plan of salvation as illustrated in the sanctuary consisted of three main steps: sacrifice, intercession, and cleansing.
The Day of Atonement allows for the final disposing of sin. The record of sin is removed from the sanctuary. This involves a work of investigation, a work of judgment. It is the very work described in Daniel 7:9-14 as the pre-advent judgment, and is often called "the investigative judgment."
By parallelling this 2300-day prophecy with the judgment in chapter 7, we determine that the judgment began in the Fall of 1844. But we can be even more specific than that. Each of the ceremonial holy days of ancient Israel met their fulfillment in the plan of salvation on the calendar day of the ceremonial type. For example, Jesus fulfilled what was illustrated by the slaying of the Passover lamb on Passover Day. He was raised to life again on the annual day of the wave sheaf offering, again in fulfillment of the type. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the very day of the year which for centuries had been observed as pointing forward to it - the Day of Pentecost. So, it would be on the 10th day of the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar in the year 1844 that Jesus would begin the work which had been illustrated by the annual Day of Atonement. That date was October 22, 1844.
The work of cleansing, the work of judgment, which was begun in 1844, will continue until every human being has made their final decision whether to serve God or sin, and until that choice is irrevocably recorded in the books of heaven. At that time human probation will close, Jesus will cease His work as Priest, and will put on His kingly garments, and come to take His people home.
Verse 23 Text
"In the latter time of their kingdom"
This rules out Antiochus Epiphanes (a common misapplication) who was only the 8th in a dynasty of 17 Seleucid kings. Rather, this expression means just what it says. This king would arise at the end of the time of Greek supremacy.
"A king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences"
In Deuteronomy 28 God had outlined the results of Israel's obedience or disobedience to the terms of His covenant. If after centuries of God's mercy they continued to turn away from Him, the following consequence would be theirs:
"He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee. The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; A nation of fierce countenance." Deuteronomy 28:48-50.
This clearly foretold the dominion of Rome. Deuteronomy's reference to iron is echoed in Daniel 2:40 and 7:7. A "nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand" (Deuteromony 28:49) would be one which understood "dark sentences" (Daniel 8:23).
Verse 24 Text
"And shall destroy the mighty and the holy people"
It was Rome in the year A.D. 70 which destroyed the city of Jerusalem, executing God's judgments upon the Jews.
Incidentally, Deuteronomy 28 (see comments on verse 23 above) also predicted the Roman siege of Jerusalem which preceded its destruction in A.D. 70, in which the Jews actually ate their own children because of the lack of food (Deuteronomy 28:52, 53).