Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.VIII
(1) The Hebrew language is here resumed. The visions recorded in the remaining portion of the book having no connection with Babylon, the Chaldee dialect is dropped.
Third year.—Most probably, not long before the end of his reign. This vision is supplementary to the one recorded in the preceding chapter, giving various details respecting the second and third empires there omitted, showing also how a “little horn” is to grow out of the third as well as out of the fourth empire.
At the first—i.e., earlier. (Comp. Daniel 9:21.)
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.(2) At Shushan—i.e., Susa. At this time (see Records of the Past, vol. 1, p. 71, &c.) Susa was, as Daniel describes it, in the province of Elam; at a later period it became the capital of the Persian empire. Daniel was at Susa only in vision, he was not bodily transported thither. The Ulai is the river Eulæus, and is mentioned in connection with Susa in the inscription cited above.
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.(3) A ram—i.e., a single ram. The ram was standing before the river, or eastward of it, and represented the Medo-Persian empire (Daniel 8:20). The two horns, like the two breasts and arms of the image, or the two sides of the bear, symbolise the twofold character of this empire. The higher horn denotes the Persians, the dominant race. For other instances of rams and goats representing nations, comp. Isaiah 14:9; Jeremiah 1:8; Zechariah 10:3.
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.(4) I saw the ram pushing.—The ram pushes in three different directions. This corresponds to the three ribs in the mouth of the bear. The animal does not push towards the east, as it is presumed that he has already made conquests in those quarters.
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.(5) An he goat.—This, according to Daniel 8:21, means the Greek empire, the large horn being the first king, or Alexander the Great. It may be remarked that the goat and the ram form the same contrast as the panther and the bear. Matchless activity is contrasted with physical strength and brutal fierceness.
Touched not the ground.—An exact prediction of the early conquests of Alexander, all whose movements were characterised by marvellous rapidity. This is expressed by “the wings of a fowl” (Daniel 7:6).
A notable horn.—See margin. This is explained (Daniel 8:21) to be Alexander himself.
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.(6) Ran unto him.—The wonderful rapidity of Alexander’s movements, incredible, if it were not so well attested in history, is here pointed out. From the battle of Granicus to that of Arbela only three years elapsed. During this brief period the whole Persian empire fell to pieces.
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.(8) Was broken.—This points to the sudden and unexpected end of Alexander, B.C. 323. The “four horns,” which take the place of the “notable horn,” may mean either that this empire was dispersed to the four winds of heaven on the death of its founder (comp. Daniel 7:2; Daniel 11:4; Jeremiah 49:36; Zechariah 2:6), or it may hint at the ultimate division of the empire into four parts, Thrace, Macedonia, Syria, Egypt, under Symmachus, Cassander, Seleucus, and Ptolemy respectively.
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.(9) Little.—Literally, out of littleness. (Comp. Daniel 7:8.) This is explained more fully in Daniel 8:23. The southern campaigns of Antiochus Epiphanes are related 1 Maccabees 1:16; for his eastern wars see 1 Maccabees 3:31-37; 1 Maccabees 6:1-4.
The pleasant land—i.e., Palestine, which here, as in Isaiah 19:23-24, is spoken of as a third land, between south and east. The phrase, “pleasant land,” or “glorious land,” which recurs Daniel 11:16-41, was suggested to Daniel by the language of Jeremiah 3:19; Ezekiel 20:6; Ezekiel 20:15.
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.(10) The host of heaven.—Probably meaning the stars, as Jeremiah 33:22, but in a metaphorical sense indicating the people of Israel. (Comp. Exodus 7:4; Numbers 24:17.) The actions of Antiochus, predicted here, are related 1 Maccabees 1:24; 1 Maccabees 1:30; 1 Maccabees 1:37; 1 Maccabees 2:38; 2 Maccabees 9:10.
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.(11) Prince of the host—i.e., Jehovah Himself. (Comp. Daniel 8:25, Daniel 11:36.)
The daily—i.e., everything permanent in the worship of God, such as sacrifices, &c. (See Note on Leviticus 6:13.) On this conduct of Antiochus see 1 Maccabees 1:39; 1 Maccabees 1:45, &c., 1 Maccabees 3:45.
Place of his sanctuary—i.e., the Temple. (Comp. 1Kings 8:13.)
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.(12) An host . . .—The host is apparently the same as that which is mentioned in Daniel 8:10, and means some of the Jewish people. It is known that some of them lapsed under the persecutions of Antiochus, and joined in his idolatrous rites. These apostates were given into his hand, and on account of their apostasy the daily sacrifice also was taken away. (Comp. Daniel 8:13.)
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?(13) One saint—i.e., an angel, who, however, has not been mentioned before. This part of the vision recalls Daniel 7:16. It is implied that the angels were conversing upon the subject of this awful revelation concerning the future of God’s people. Only a portion of what they said is here recorded.
The vision.—The inquiry means, “How long shall be the duration of the object of this vision, so far as it has to do with the great apostasy?”
And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.(14) Unto two thousand and three hundred days.—It is clear from the language that the period here spoken of terminates with the cleansing of the sanctuary, and that it begins with the transgression that led to the awful events that occurred in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Judas Maccabeus took Jerusalem in the year B.C. 165, and kept the Feast of Dedication the same year, Antiochus being at the time in Armenia. The period apparently commences with the events mentioned in 2 Maccabees 4:32-39, which occurred about B.C. 171. The dates, however, not being recorded precisely, it is impossible to reckon with certainty whence the starting-point is to be dated. The phrase “evening morning” (see margin) is used to indicate a complete night and day, and 2,300 complete days of twenty-four hours make a period of six years 140 days. It has been observed that this period falls short of seven years (a week of years) by about two-thirds of a year. If, then, seven years is the number of years symbolical of Divine chastisements, the prophecy implies that the people shall not suffer persecution according to their full deserts, but “for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (See Note on Daniel 7:25.)
Be cleansed.—Literally, be placed in its proper state.
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.(15) Appearance of a man.—From Daniel 8:16 it appears that this was the angel Gabriel. The “man’s voice” mentioned in Daniel 8:16 proceeded from Him Who alone has authority to command angels. (Comp. Daniel 12:6-7.)
And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.(16) Between the . . . Ulai.—The city, as it would appear, stood between the two branches of the river. The two branches were the Eulæus and the Choaspes.
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.(17) The time of the end—i.e., either at the final period of earthly history, or at the time which lies at the limit of the prophetic horizon. St. Jerome observes that what happened in the times of Antiochus was typical of what shall be fulfilled hereafter in Antichrist.
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.(18) A deep sleep.—On the effects of heavenly visions upon those who beheld them, see Genesis 16:13, Exodus 33:20, &c.
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.(19) End of the indignation—i.e., the revelation of God’s wrath at the end of the time of the prophecy.
At the time appointed—i.e., the vision refers to the appointed time in the end.
The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.(20-22) See Notes on Daniel 8:3-8.
Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.(22) Not in his power—i.e., not like the first king.
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.(23) Transgressors . . .—When transgressors have filled up the measure of their guilt so as to exceed the limits of God’s mercy, then this event shall take place. The transgressors are the apostate Jews. Here, as in the other visions, the particulars respecting the most prominent objects of the vision are given more fully in the interpretation than in the early part of the chapter. The king is represented as being “of a fierce countenance,” he is shameless, he has no reluctance in pursuing the cruelties which he has designed. He “understands dark sayings,” or uses falsehood and dissimulation to carry out his purposes.
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.(24) Not by his own power.—Not might, but cunning, will cause his success. (Comp. 1 Maccabees 1:10, &c.) Thus his destructive powers become astonishing.
The mighty.—No special individuals are pointed out, but rulers in general.
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.(25) Through his policy.—This is explained more fully in the next two sentences. Through his craft he succeeds, and becomes able to destroy many unexpectedly, and finally raises up himself against God.
Without hand.—Not by the hand of man (comp. Daniel 2:34), but by the act of God.
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.(26) The concluding words of the angel are intended to comfort the Jewish Church in the days of her persecution. They teach her that God has foreseen her affliction, that it comes from Him in His love, and that it shall last only for a short while. This promise accounts for the firmness which was exhibited by the saints of the Maccabees, which entitles their faith to a place in the same list of faithful men which contains the names of Abel, Abraham, and Moses (Hebrews 11:34-38).
Shut thou up.—The revelation is to be kept safe, because the time of fulfilment is far off, and then the comforting words will be needed. Comp. Revelation 22:10, where the opposite counsel is given, “seal it not, for the time of fulfilment is near.”