Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Daniel’s vision of the ram and he goat, Daniel 8:1-12. The days of suspension of the daily sacrifice, and desolation of the sanctuary, Daniel 8:13,14. Gabriel comforteth Daniel, and interpreteth the vision, Daniel 8:15-27.
This follows then in time after the former. Those things that were meet for the Chaldees to know are recorded by Daniel in that tongue; but now he writes in Hebrew, which lasts to the end of the book, because these things relate to the church of Christ, Jew and Gentile, to the end of the world.
In the other vision he speaks of all the four monarchies, here only of the three first; this vision being both as a part and a comment upon the first.
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.I was at Shushan; in his mind and thoughts, not bodily, and was by the river Ulai: some think he was locally there, being sent thither in embassy by Cyrus; but Daniel was now at Babylon, when it was besieged and taken, Da 5; he was only there in spirit, as the prophet Ezekiel saith he was in Jerusalem, Ezekiel 8:3. Now Daniel had this vision at Shushan, because their deliverance was to come by Cyrus the Persian or Elamite, for Elam is Persia. This city was called Shushan, i.e. a lily, for the pleasantness of it: such names they give also their cities in China.
The river of Ulai; a river whose waters were so wholesome that they were carried far, and the king drank of no other.
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.Which had two horns; by which is meant the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, as it is in Daniel 8:20, where it is so interpreted. Before he was called a
bear, and here a
ram, both noting the same thing, though by different expressions. A ram because he is a fighting creature, pushing.
The two horns were high, i.e. they were very powerful.
One was higher than the other, i.e. the Median, that it came up last; but afterward the Persian was much superior in magnificence and fame, which was verified in Cyrus; who had an incredible heap, even fifty millions of talents. See Curtius and Strabo.
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.Westward, i.e. towards Babylon, Syria, Cappadocia. Asia the Less, and Greece, all westward from Media and Persia; for the Persians under Darius and Xerxes made war against Greece.
Northward, i.e. against the Armenians, Iberians, Lydians, Colchi, Cusptans.
Southward, i.e. against Ethiopia, Arabia, Egypt, which Cambyses invaded.
No beasts might stand before him; they prospered and conquered all, as did Cyrus.
He did according to his will, and became great; he prevailed against all that opposed, and did what he would without control, and became the greatest king of the earth then.
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.An he-goat; Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia and all Greece, called a he-goat because the Greeks were called Ægeans, as was their sea, that country and its islands abounding in goats, as the word signifies, goatish. The word
he-goat signifies a
young he-goat; for so was Alexander, called pellaeus juvenis. The he-goat goes before the flock, Jeremiah 1:8. This notes him to be the Grecian captain and leader. This he-goat answers to the belly and thighs of the image, and to the leopard and third beast.
On the face of the whole earth, i.e. in that part of Asia where he opposed Xerxes, and overran all the Eastern empire.
Touched not the ground; therefore called a
leopard with wings, for he conquered with incredible swiftness in a short time, for in six years’ space he overcame the Medes and Persians, Babylon, Egypt, and all the countries round far and near; as if he had but travelled over them, he so came, saw, and overcame them.
A notable horn between his eyes: this was Alexander the Great, the western emperor. Creatures that have one horn are therefore strong, as the monoceros or unicorn, Numbers 23:22.
Between his eyes, noting his power and policy; also his wise council, captains, and conduct, as Parmenio, Clitus, Philotes, &c.
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.The ram that had two horns, i.e. the king of Media and Persia, and joined battle presently and furiously, Jehu like.
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.Brake his two horns: Artaxerxes Mnemon, by aiding Cyrus against him and then Darius Codomanus; these are the two horns, or the Medes and Persians.
Cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him; he overthrew him utterly, that he could never rise again. This was at the Granicus, Issus, and Arbela.
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.The he-goat waxed very great, by conquering all the Eastern empire and power, even to India.
The great horn was broken: this was the mighty power of the Lord of hosts, who is higher than the highest, and stronger than the strongest, though they seem invincible. Verily every man at his best estate is altogether vanity. Selah. When Alexander the Great was greatest, in his youth, not thirtythree years old; when he called himself the son of Jupiter; when he was swoln with victories and successes; then was he broken, and that to pieces, for he, his mother, son, brother, and all his kindred were destroyed. So weak are the greatest to bear prosperity long! for this wonder of men, by pride, luxury, and passion, prepared himself for ruin; he that wept because he had not another world to conquer, and wanted breathing room in this, how soon was he tumbled into a grave of six feet!
For it came up four notable ones:
1. Antipater got Greece.
2. Asia was possessed by Antigonus.
3. Ptolemy got Egypt.
4. Seleucus had Babylon and Syria. All these were variously situated: to the east, Babylon and Syria; to the south, Egypt; to the north, Asia the Less; to the west, Greece.
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.A little horn; the little horn was Antiochus Epiphanes, he arose out of the Seleucidae of Syria; called a little horn,
1. Because he was much less than Alexander, called a notable horn; Daniel 8:5.
2. Little, because he was the youngest of his brethren.
3. He was held a prisoner and pledge at Rome, whence he escaped.
4. Little, because he had nothing at first of greatness and heroic nobleness in him, also of low fortune.
Toward the south, i.e. Egypt, where he besieged and took many places from Philometer, till the Romans stopped him.
Toward the east, i.e. in Syria, Babylon, Armenia.
Toward the pleasant land; Judea, so called because of the temple and people of God in it, and the fruitfulness of it, Ezekiel 20:6,
the glory of all lands. So Daniel 9:15 Psalm 48:2,3, Jeremiah 3:19 Daniel 11:16,41,45.
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.Even to the host of heaven, i.e. the church of God militant, who worship the God of heaven, who are citizens of heaven, whose names are written in heaven; and among these chiefly the priests, and nobles, and champions, who were as stars shining above the rest; these he profaned and slew cruelly.
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.Even to the prince of the host; not only against the high priest Onias, whom he put from his priesthood, and sold the high priesthood, /APC 2Mac 4, but against God himself, which showed his daring insolence, and God’s patience and permission, for the sins of his people.
By him the daily sacrifice was taken away; for he so persecuted the people of God, that he forced them to omit the worship of God.
The place of his sanctuary was cast down; he took away the use of the temple as to the holy service and sacrifices, commanding that it should not be called the temple of God, but of Jupiter Olympus, whose image he set up in it, and gave the priesthood to wicked men, as Jason and Menelaus.
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.By reason of transgression, i.e. either the transgression of the priests, for Jason perfidiously took away the priesthood from his brother Onias, and afterwards Menelaus did the like by him. Or else for the sin of the people about the worship of God. Or else Antiochus wickedly and in contempt of God put soldiers into the city to hinder or break up the meetings of God’s people about his worship, /APC 1Ma 1:47.
It cast down the truth, i.e. the law of God, called the law of truth, Malachi 2:6, which Antiochus cut in pieces and burnt, /APC 1Ma 1:59. This was his practice, and it succeeded for a time as he desired.
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?By the first
saint is meant a holy angel, by the other is meant Jesus Christ,
numberer or revealer of secrets, a wonderful revealer, Isaiah 9:6. Of him the angel asks this secret concerning the calamity of the church, how long it would last, for Daniel’s sake and his people. For the Lord Christ is the Teacher of his people, the Wisdom of God, and hath all this in his power by office, and as he stands in relation to his church, and for them.
The Lord knows his suffering people are much concerned about the time of their sufferings, because there is an appointed time for it, and the Lord doth sometimes reveal it, as we see here, unto his considering ones, Daniel 8:5, and praying saints, Da 9; they cry out in their agonies, How long, O Lord? and it is an addition to their sorrow that no man knoweth how long, Psalm 74:9. How long shall Antiochus continue his tyrannical vexations against the people of God, and the worship of God? This is the
treading down of the sanctuary and the host.
And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.He said unto me, i.e. that angel unnamed. Why did he speak to Daniel, and not to the angel that asked him? Because Daniel, and the church to which he related and was to communicate the answer, was most concerned in it, and the angel that asked the question did it upon their account. Unto two thousand and three hundred days: this seems to many learned men a very difficult place, i.e. where to begin and where to end these days.
1. Some explain it thus: A year contains three hundred and sixty-five days; then two thousand three hundred make six years, three months, and eighteen days, reckoning in two days of the leap years gained from the supernumerary hours and minutes. Now this time begins at the first entrance of Antiochus into Judea, when he profaned the priesthood; and takes in also his second coming in, when he interdicted their worship, set up an idol in the temple, and interrupted the daily sacrifice.
2. Others count the two thousand three hundred days from the people’s revolt, which was procured by Menelaus, which began in the year 141 of the reign of the Seleucidae, /APC 1Mac 1; but Antiochus did not act his impieties till the next year after, viz. 142, in the 6th month and the 6th day; from whence if we reckon to the 25th day of the 9th month of the year 148, there will fall out precisely six years, three months, and eighteen days.
3. Others reckon a little otherwise, from the beginning of Antiochus’s profanations to his death; from 143 to 148, taking in both years to the number. For though Judas Maccabeus recovered the city and cleansed the temple in 148, yet Antiochus was not dead till 149, till when the work was not finished.
4. Others make it to, begin in the year of the Seleneidea 145, and to end anne 151, two years after Antiochus’s death, for the abomination of desolation was set up in the month Chisleu, /APC 1Ma 1:57, for not till two years after Antiochus’s death was Nicanor overthrown with all his army. Thus Jacob Capell, and L’Empereur.
5. Others reckon not days, but sacrifices, (at two every day,) and restrain the time to fewer years, out of Maccabees. Josephus.
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.Having obtained the favour of knowing something, he longed for a more clear discovery of those things; and he had his desire granted.
As the appearance of a man; either the angel Gabriel or Michael, who appeared often in the shape of men, and are the messengers of God in the great things concerning his church, Hebrews 1:14; others will have this angel to be Christ.
And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.A man’s voice, i.e. of him but now before mentioned, namely, Christ.
To understand the vision, i.e. by declaring it more plainly to him: this shows Christ to be God, in commanding and sending his angel. Gabriel signifies the strength of God.
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.He came near, that he might speak more familiarly to him, yet Daniel could not bear the glory of it, Matthew 17:6. How much less can we bear the glory of God! and how graciously hath the Lord dealt with us to teach us by men, and not by angels! and how vain are they who aspire to a converse with angels here on earth!
O son of man: he calls him son of man, to make him mind his frailty, and not to be lifted up with visions, and this great condescension and familiarity of Heaven with him.
At the time of the end, i.e. in God’s appointed time, i.e. in the latter generations, but not now in thy lifetime, but about four hundred years hence. See Daniel 8:26.
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.In a deep sleep on my face toward the ground; being terrified and astonished with the splendour and grandeur both of the messenger and message; by the sight and by the voice. Set me upright, by one touch only. The power of spirits is incomparably greater than the strongest of men. Carnal, and flesh and blood, in Scripture signifies weak, 2 Corinthians 10:3,4.
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.In the last end of the indignation, i.e. that God will raise up Antiochus to execute his wrath against the Jews for their sins, and that yet there shall be an end of that
indignation; God will have the end of his intention, and the end of his execution, in all his severe providences relating to his people.
At the time appointed the end shall be: this he saith to make us wait patiently. He that believeth will not make haste.
The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.Or the kingdom, Daniel 7:17.
And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.The king of Grecia; of Javan, or Ion, or Joan, which properly is Asia the Less, which was inhabited by Javan, Genesis 10:2, but spread over all Greece, and all spake Greek, and the sea was thence called the Ionian Sea, See more in Bochart.
The first king, i.e. Alexander the Great; called the Great from his great power, success, and possessions; and the
first king, i.e. in Asia, and by his exploits and victories over the Persian monarchy; for else there were other kings of Greece before him, but none of them in the sense aforesaid.
Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.Being broken, i.e. by death, which breaks the horn of all pride and earthly glory.
Four stood up for it, i.e. four kingdoms of the nations of the Greeks.
Not in his power; that is, not in his majesty and magnificence, but inferior to him.
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.In the latter time of their kingdom, i.e. when they were come to the height, and beginning to decline. It notes that time when the Romans began to seize part of the Grecian kingdom, by Emilius Probus, who subdued Perseus king of Macedonia, and thereby brought all Greece under the Roman jurisdiction; which was one hundred and sixty-six years before Christ was born, that very year Antiochus set up the abomination of desolation.
When the transgressors are come to the full; when the Jews were grown to an excess of wickedness, and called for punishment, then God suffered Antiochus to persecute them.
Of fierce countenance; such was he: the word is translated impudent, inhuman, for the countenance is the discoverer of the mind and manners oftentimes.
Understanding dark sentences; full of all subtlety, another Julian, to lay snares, and fetch over the inconstant and backsliding Jews: such a one all histories declare this Antiochus to be.
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.Not by his own power; not by any heroic deeds, or truly regal qualities, but by making use of the Jewish factions, and also through the Divine permission, and commission given him to punish a backsliding, degenerate nation; lastly, by the help of Eumenes and Attalus, by whose means and help he got up to this height; who being kings, suspected the Roman power, and raised him to be a kind of cheek to them.
The holy people; he shall by force, craft, and cruelty destroy many of God’s people, from the highest to the meanest ranks of them.
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.He shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; he shall contrive many devices, and most of them shall take; he shall be a great master of those kinds of artifices: all to circumvent and destroy, as beasts and birds of prey have a kind of craft to compass and then devour their prey.
He shall magnify himself in his heart; shall take a pride in his wicked devices and tricks.
By peace shall destroy many; under colour of kindness, and promising peace and amity, shall lull men asleep, so as to fear nothing from him.
He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes: all this you find verified of him in the Maccabees and Josephus. He fought against God in removing the high priest, affronting God’s laws, profaning God’s worship, name, and temple, and setting up the image and worship of Jupiter there. He shall be broken without hand, by a disease whereof he died, /APC 1Ma 6:8 2Ma 9:5.
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.The vision is true, i.e. of the two thousand three hundred days before, Daniel 8:14. This exposition of it is true, plain, and certain. and therefore to be believed and seriously minded. Shut thou up the vision; lay it up in thy heart, keep it secret, reveal it to none till it be fulfilled. He doth not mean that it should be concealed from the people of God that were wise in heart, for they were concerned in it, and therefore it was revealed to Daniel; but he would not have it revealed to the Chaldeans and profane heathens, and therefore it was written in Hebrew, and not in Chaldee. It was to be fulfilled in after-times, and therefore to be safely laid up, and wisely to be thought on and improved. Therefore it is added,
for it shall be for many days; three hundred years after this, in the time of the Seleucidae; long after Daniel’s days and that generation. See Revelation 22:10.
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.Was sick certain days; greatly afflicted, to consider the sad calamity that should befall the poor people of God. This he did in compassion and sympathy with his people, upon whom these sufferings should fall.
2. Under the dreadful apprehensions of God’s wrath, provoked by his people’s sins, which made it an act of justice in God to punish them thus severely.
3. That Daniel should not be lifted up with this vision and revelation.
4. That hereby Daniel might be in a due frame of humiliation and posture for prayer.
5. To show the powerful operations and impressions of the mind upon the bodies of men by the passions chiefly of fear and grief, causing often faintings, and consternation, which appear most in thoughtful, good men, whereof are many instances in Scripture, Habakkuk 3:16 Romans 9:1-3. Having digested his grief, and recovered strength, he minded his place, duty, and trust, and concealed the whole, that they might not see it by his countenance; though he had deep thoughts of heart about it.