Chapters 2 through 7 were written in Aramaic, the international business language of the day. Daniel wanted a wide audience, Jewish and Gentile, to be able to read and understand the message he was proclaiming about the competing kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God.
In chapter 8 Daniel switches back to Hebrew. He intends the second part of the book to be read and understood by a specific audience, a Jewish audience. Why the shift? Because the second half of the book is mostly prophecy and most of that prophecy directly affects the People of God.
This new vision that Daniel has as recorded in chapter 8 involves a ram and a goat. In the dreams and visions of the Book of Daniel we started in chapter 2 with a statue made of differing metals, representing four kingdoms of this world. Babylon, the Medes and Persians, Greece, and Rome were represented.
These same four nations were the focus of Daniel’s dream in chapter 7, though we saw these nations from a far less glorious perspective. We saw them as God saw them – like beasts (lion, bear, leopard, and an unrecognizable beast) devouring and destroying people and the planet. In this vision out of the fourth beast comes 10 horns, and then another “little horn” that uproots three. This is the final Antichrist, coming at the end of time to blaspheme God and persecute the Church until he is put down and judged by Christ Himself.
Now as we focus on the Medes and Persians and the kingdom of Greece, we see that out of the four horns of the goat (Alexander the Great’s generals who ruled four regions after his death) comes another “little horn.” This is not the Antichrist, but this is an important figure in the history of the Jews.This prophecy introduces us to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Greek ruler who was one of the worst enemies of the Jewish people throughout all of history. He was the eighth king of the Seleucid dynasty. He usurped the throne through deception and mastering wickedness. He attacked Jerusalem and Egypt, outlawed owning a copy of the Jewish Scriptures, forbade sacrifices and circumcision, and erected an idol of Zeus in the Temple area. Finally he sacrificed a pig on the altar at the Temple offering this desecration to Zeus. This act and this idol is known in Scripture and Jewish history as the “abomination of desolation.” This occurred between the Old and New Testaments in the 170s and 160s BC. It is a foreshadowing of what will happen with the final “little horn” (Matt 24:15).
Three years (2300 evenings and mornings = 1150 days) after Antiochus began repressing Jewish worship, Judas Maccabaeus was able to lead a revolt and reconsecrate the Temple in 164 BC. This terrible “little horn” was defeated and later died of Divine causes, just as Daniel foretold.
This vision and what it foretold for the people of God was so horrible that it made Daniel sick, and at one point he even fainted. How aweful a message is it when God reveals the truth to us and we need smelling salts to be able to recover? Not quite the “salt of the earth” we usually have in mind.
In describing this great assault on the Jews, followed by its conquest by Rome and then the Advent of Christ, Daniel serves to point us to God’s sovereignty over history and His purposes in using prophecy to prove His truthfulness and the surety of His Word.
What lessons do we find in this prophecy for us in the church today? What principles can we glean to help us to be “Living for God in Ungodly Times”? Join us this Sunday at 10:30 for the ninth message in our series through Daniel as we look at “Daniel’s Dreams (Part 2)” in Daniel chapter 8.