In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, even to me Daniel…
This second vision of Daniel came to him in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar. If the first year of Belshazzar, during which Daniel had his first vision, corresponded with the seventh year of his father Nabonidus, the year following that in which Media was conquered by Cyrus the third year of Belshazzar would be the tenth year of Nabonidus, and so about The scene of the vision was Shushan, or Susa, the capital of Elam, and afterwards one of the chief residences of the Persian kings. Shushan, which means a lily, may have been so called from the many white lilies which grew in its neighbourhood. The language of Daniel leaves it doubtful whether, when he received the vision, he was present at Shushan in the body or only in the spirit, like to Ezekiel when he was removed to Jerusalem to see the causes of his impending doom (Ezekiel 8). As Elam, which lay to the east of Babylonia, seems to have become a tributary province of the empire in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel as the prime minister would sometimes probably visit Shushan its capital: but as the history of Elam during this period is very obscure, it would be hazardous to affirm that he was actually present in Shushan when he received the vision, although it seems to me that he might. The likelihood seems to be that Cyrus would leave Elam untouched, not only until after the conquest of Media, Lydia, and Persia, but also until after he had made adequate preparations for the more formidable task of conquering the great Babylonian empire. In that case Daniel might be in Shushan in the tenth year of Nabonidus, which we have supposed to be the third year of his son Belshazzar, in connection with the mustering of. the forces of Elam against Cyrus; and his actual presence there for the purposes of defence would give peculiar point and significance to the vision.. The first thing in the vision which met the eye of the ecstatic Daniel was a ram with two horns (v. 3, 4). The river Ulai (the Eulaeus of the Greeks) before which the ram stood, apparently on the opposite side of the stream, seems to have been "a large artificial canal, some nine hundred feet broad, though it is now dry, which left the Choaspes at Pat Pul, about twenty miles north-west of Susa, passed close by the town of Susa on the north or north-east, and afterwards joined the Coprates" (Driver). In connection with the ram there is in the original, the numeral one, to bring into relief the fact that the ram had two horns. The ram is the symbol of the Medo-Persian empire, as the angel Gabriel said to Daniel: "The ram which thou sawest that had two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia." This symbol corresponds with that of the arms and breast of silver in the image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and with that of the bear raised up on one side in the first vision of Daniel. The two horns, which represent the kingdoms of Media and Persia, were both high or conspicuous horns, while the horn which was higher than the other, and which came up after it, represents the kingdom of Persia, which until the time of Cyrus was but a tributary of Media, but which grew and became the more powerful and conspicuous member of the united kingdom. This is seen in the fact that at the first, as in this book, the empire is spoken of as that of the Medes and Persians, but afterwards, as in the book of Esther, as that of the Persians and the Medes (Esther 1:3, 14, 18, 19). As the symbol of the ram with the two horns here represents the Medo-Persian empire, it is strange that anyone should explain the symbol of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and that of Daniel's first vision to mean the Medes alone. The idea of a Median empire succeeding the Babylonian is, as the higher critics admit, a gross historical blunder; but then they ascribe the blunder, which they themselves have created, to the ignorance of the author, and apply to their own workmanship the well-sounding name of scientific criticism. As Daniel .looked at the ram with the two horns on the other side of the Ulai, he saw it pushing or butting westward, and northward and southward, and overthrowing all the beasts which came in its way, and glorying in its crushing and victorious power. This is a striking description of the conquests and spirit of the Medo-Persian empire. In the west it vanquished Babylon and Syria; in the north Lydia, Armenia, and the Scythian nations; and in the south part of Arabia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. It was more of a world-empire than Babylon, and for a time resistless in its conquering career, and became in an eminent degree a despotic and vainglorious power. The next part of the vision relates to the he-goat (v. 5, 8). This is the interpretation given by Gabriel to Daniel: "And the rough he-goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. And as for that which was broken, in the place whereof four stood up, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not with his power." The he-goat with its one great horn at the first, and afterwards with its four notable horns, the symbol of the Graeco-Macedonian empire, corresponds with the belly and thighs of brass of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and with the four-winged leopard with four heads in Daniel's first vision. There is a likeness of a he-goat with one notable horn between its eyes still to be seen in the sculptures at Persepolis. The first king of the Grace-Macedonian empire, symbolised by the one great horn between the eyes, is . This remarkable man, who at thirteen became for three years the pupil of the famous , was born in , and ascended the throne of Macedonia in , when he was twenty years of age. Within two years after his coronation he had made himself the recognised leader of the Grecian peoples; and in , he crossed the Hellespont to overthrow the Medo-Persian empire with not more perhaps than 30,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry, and began the struggle by completely routing the Persians in battle at the Granicus. He then overran and subdued a large part of Asia Minor, and in dealt a crushing blow to the immense army of Darius at Issus in Cilicia. Instead of pursuing the beaten Darius the youthful conqueror marched southward through Syria and Palestine, taking Tyre after a siege of seven months, and Gaza after a siege of two, and entered Egypt, where he not only overthrew the Persian rule, but founded the city of Alexandria for his new kingdom. In he left Egypt and hastened with all speed through Palestine and Syria to Thapsacus, where he crossed the Euphrates, and then onwards to the Tigris, below Nineveh, which he crossed without opposition. Some days after Alexander encountered the army of Darius, said to be more than a million in number, posted on a broad plain stretching from Guagamela to Arbela, and completely routed it, and thus practically ended the Medo-Persian empire, which had lasted for a period of 218 years. In the following year, , Darius, after he had fled to Susa, then to Persepolis (Pasargadae), and then to Ecbatana, three of the royal residences of the Persian kings, made his escape into Bactria, where he was assassinated. In three years the little king of Macedonia had made himself master of the vast Medo-Persian empire. The rapidity of his movements is aptly likened to that of a four-winged leopard in the first vision, and in this to that of a he-goat bounding along without touching the ground. His attacks on the armies of Darius were like those of the he-goat on the ram with the two horns. Darius, like the ram, had no power to resist him; and Alexander, like the he-goat, "cast him down to the ground, and trampled upon him; and there was none to deliver the ram out of his hand." Alexander, too, like the he-goat, "magnified himself exceedingly." His extraordinary successes impressed him with the idea that he must be more than human; and, to settle the matter, when he was in Egypt, he sent to enquire of the oracle of Ammon, which, knowing what would please the vainglorious conqueror, gave the answer that he was the son, not of Philip, but of Zeus. Hence, to the disgust of many of his followers, he claimed to be divine, and expected to be worshipped with divine honours. And he, like the great horn, was "broken in his strength." He was cut off at Babylon by fever, aggravated by intemperance, when in the midst of his successes, and not yet thirty-three years of age. After the breaking of the great horn the four notable horns, which came up towards the four winds of Heaven, are explained by Gabriel to be four kingdoms that would stand up out of the nation, but not with his power. The four horns of the-he-goat correspond with the four heads of the leopard in the first vision. Alexander the Great died in ; and for twenty-two years after the empire was in a condition of conflict and confusion; but in it was divided into four kingdoms, all of which were weaker than the original empire. Seleucus got what may be called the eastern kingdom of Syria, Babylonia, and the countries as far as India; Cassander, the western kingdom of Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus, the northern kingdom of Thrace and Bithynia; and Ptolemy, the southern kingdom of Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia Petrea. These four kingdoms were towards the four winds of Heaven. The little horn is admitted on all hands to be Antiochus Epiphanes, who seized the throne of Syria in , in the absence of his nephew Demetrius, the rightful heir. He might be called a little horn, partly from the depressed state of the kingdom of Syria at the time, and partly from his own depressed state, as he had been hostage at Rome for the seven preceding years. In the eyes of the world such a king would be very insignificant. The period in which he would arise is said to be "in the latter time of the kingdom (the Graeco-Macedonian empire), when the transgressors are come to the full," that is, when the Jewish people had filled up the cup of their iniquity. Many of the Jews with their high priest apostatised in the early days of Antiochus, and adopted the heathen customs of the Greeks. The period of the little horn is also said to belong to the time of the end. Gabriel said to Daniel 5:17: "Understand O son of man; for the vision belongeth to the time of the end"; and again, v.19: "Behold I will make thee know what shall be in the latter time of the indignation; for it belongeth to the appointed time of the end." The time of the end seems to refer to the end of the present age, as distinguished from the future age of the Messiah. The appearance of the little horn, which would be in the latter time of God's indignation against His chosen people, would show that men were living in the last stage of the old order of things, and that a new order of things was about to arise. Antiochus Epiphanes, the little horn which was to arise in the time of the end, is minutely and accurately described. He was "a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences," noted for his hard-hearted cruelty and crafty dissimulation. Though a little horn at the first, "he waxed exceeding great toward the glorious land." The south refers to Egypt, against which he undertook several campaigns, and would have made a complete conquest of it, had it not been for the interference of the Romans; the east refers to his military expeditions into Armenia, Bactria, and Elymais; and the glorious land, "the glory of all lands" in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:6), refers to Palestine which he so grievously oppressed. His success was due, not so much to inherent ability as to the favouring providence of God and the practice of dissimulation. The one cause is pointed out in the words, "And his power shall be mighty; but not by his own power"; and the other in the words, "And through his policy he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand." And in his successful career, "he shall destroy the mighty ones and the holy people," that is, powerful foes in the world and the chosen people of Israel. The destructive power of the little horn is especially noted in reference to the holy people. We read: "And it waxed great even to the host of heaven: and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them." The host of Heaven and the stars refer to the same, and not to different persons; and the stars here symbolise, not the angels but the chosen people, partly because the seed of Abraham had been likened to the stars for multitude (Genesis 15:5), but mainly because they are sometimes called the Lord's host (Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:41). This was fulfilled in his two captures of Jerusalem, when many of the inhabitants were slain, and in his persecution of those who refused to abandon their religion (Jos. Ant. 12:03, 4). "Yes," continues Daniel, "it magnified itself, oven to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the continual burnt offering and the pines of his sanctuary was cut down. And the host was given over to it, together with the continual burnt offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered." This describes the attempt of Antiochus to extinguish the religion of the Jews. The arch-persecutor was opposed not only to the host but to the prince of the host. His aim was to blast the glory, and overthrow the power of the Most High. He plundered His temple, and caused the daily sacrifice to cease, and transformed the altar of Jehovah into an altar dedicated to the worship of idols. And because of the transgressions of the host Antiochus, like Nebuchadnezzar in reference to the destruction of Solomon's temple, was permitted to do his pleasure and prosper.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.