When we left Daniel at the end of chapter seven, he was deeply troubled by the visions of evil empires that would rule the world in coming years. They were depicted as “beasts” that would come to power one after the other. So God gave Daniel time to recover. We would hope that he had sweet dreams for a couple of years. God is faithful to give us periods of rest and respite along the way as we battle with the troubles of the world. As it turns out, Daniel really needed a “time out” because the next visions were more troubling than the first!
Without a doubt Daniel had not forgotten the introduction of the ultimate evil ruler, the Antichrist, in those former visions. The end-time drama will center on this evil ruler. After a couple of years have passed, God is now ready to give a fuller picture of this tyrant. He does so by presenting three of the rulers in the coming empires that show characteristics that will be displayed in the Antichrist. They are presented as historical “types” of the one to come. Prophetic pictures are frequent in the Bible. Daniel will look at the reigns of Darius the Mede, Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes to get a preview of characteristics shown in the ultimate evil ruler. The worst is yet to come.
Since this vision deals primarily with Israel, the language switches from Aramaic to Hebrew.
DAY ONE: DANIEL SAW A VISION OF A RAM.
Read: Daniel 8:1-4
A. DANIEL SAW A PERSIAN CITY.
The time of this vision was now about 551 B.C. Daniel was still serving King Belshazzar in Babylon when he saw a scene in Susa. This vision projected Daniel into the future when the Medo-Persians will be the world power. This city is located in what is now Iran, about 250-350 miles east of Babylon. Susa will eventually become the winter capital of the Persian Empire. The scene took place in a citadel or fortress in that city near the Ulai Canal. The city was built between two rivers. Near the junction of the two rivers the fortress was erected to protect the city. The large Ulai Canal was constructed to connect the rivers on one side of the fortress.
B. DANIEL SAW AN AGGRESSIVE RULER.
The vision showed a ram with two horns standing in front of the canal. The ram corresponded to the arms and breast of silver of the image in chapter two and the bear in chapter seven. The ram was the guardian spirit of the Medo-Persian Kingdom. The Persian king wore the head of a ram on his head when he stood at the head of his army.
The ram came from the east and butted toward the west, north and south — overpowering other animals at will and exalting itself. Darius the Great was the “longer horn” who came to dominate the Medo-Persian Empire. In the beginning the Medes were the dominant force, but the Persians soon became more powerful because of the strong aggression of Darius.
The two characteristics that Daniel emphasized about this man were his strong desire to conquer more and more people and his ego in magnifying himself in the process. His warmongering knew no bounds.
- What are seven things that God hates according to Proverbs 8:13?
- Which of these things would describe Darius?
- What did Jesus say about the peacemaker in Matthew 5:9?
- Who in your family could be called a peacemaker? Why?
- What actions could you take to promote peace in your extended family or church?
DAY TWO: DANIEL SAW A VISION OF A GOAT.
Read: Daniel 8:5-8
A. DANIEL SAW A CONQUERING ANIMAL.
The vision then showed a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes. Goats usually have two horns at the top of the eyes. Eyes normally represent human intelligence when used symbolically. Horns symbolically represent rulers. This representation would thus suggest a human ruler with intelligent leadership.
This goat came from the west and swiftly conquered the whole earth. He quickly overpowered the ram. The goat corresponded to the brass belly and thighs in chapter two and the leopard with wings in chapter seven. This ruler represents Alexander the Great and his great military machine that quickly established the Grecian Empire. He was known for his great intelligence that showed in his military genius. He was only twenty-two when he began conquering the known world.
B. DANIEL SAW A SPEEDY RISE AND A QUICK FALL
The vision now described the fall of the goat. As soon as the goat became exceedingly powerful, the large horn between his eyes was broken. At the peak of his power, Alexander the Great died at age thirty three (323 B.C.). His kingdom was divided between four of his generals.
The emphasis is put on the power of the army and swiftness of the victory because of great genius in leadership. This reminds us of the Antichrist who will conquer the whole world in three and a half years. There is an emphasis on the ego of the ruler as well as the shortness of his glory.
- What does Scripture say about pride in Proverbs 8:13?
- What eventually happens to prideful people? (Proverbs 16:18)
- What does Jesus say about humility in Matthew 5:5?
- In what area are you tempted to be prideful?
- Read John 15:5. Give Jesus thanks for the fruit He enables you to bear.
DAY THREE: DANIEL SAW A “LITTLE HORN.”
Read: Daniel 8:9-14
A. DANIEL SAW A NEW THREAT ARISE.
Daniel then was shown a “little horn” that became a huge threat in the Middle East. It came out of one of the four divisions of Alexander’s kingdom. Although he was little at first, he grew to have a great influence. He will move toward “the Beautiful Land,” which is Israel (Ezekiel 20:5-6). This person turned out to be the Greek tyrant who rose to dominate the Seleucid area of Alexander’s kingdom (an area that included Israel and Syria). This king was Antiochus IV, also known as Epiphanes. He considered himself to be divine. He gave himself the title, “Antiochus Epiphanes,” which means Antiochus the Manifested God.” The Jews gave him the name, “Antiochus Epimanes,” which means ‘Antiochus the Madman.”
B. DANIEL SAW HIS PEOPLE UNDER ATTACK.
The “little horn” will trample down the Jews, blaspheme God, violate the Jewish Temple and stop the sacrifices. He stripped the temple of its silver, gold and precious vessels. He issued a proclamation ordering the cessation of all Jewish customs, and banned sacrifices, feasts, and observation of the Sabbath. He even erected a statue of the Greek god, Zeus, above the altar and sacrificed a pig on God’s altar. Antiochus is often called the Old Testament Antichrist.
Daniel next saw how long the desecration of the temple will last. For 2,300 evenings and mornings, the twice-daily sacrifices for the nation will cease. This could mean that this is a total of 1,150 days of humiliation and sorrow for the Jews. Josephus, the historian has provided a detailed record of the fulfillment of these prophecies. The atrocities are spelled out in even greater detail in 1 & 2 Maccabees – two of the non-canonical books.
Eventually Judas Maccabeus led a Jewish rebellion against this tyrant and the Temple was cleansed and the altar restored in 165 B.C. Today the Jews celebrate this event as Hanukkah.
Some of the distinguishing features of this “type” of ruler are his attack on God’s people, his setting up of himself as God, and his adeptness at deceit. He was a master of deception. In verse 12 it says that “truth was thrown to the ground.”
- According to Scripture (John 8:44), who initiated deceit?
- What did Jesus say about truth? (John 8:32; John 18:37)
- What promise is given in Philippians 4:8-9 when we focus on true and excellent thoughts?
- When are you most tempted to tell “little white lies” or stretch the truth?
- How can you become more careful about absolutely honesty?
DAY FOUR: DANIEL RECEIVED AN INTERPRETATION OF THE FIRST VISION.
Read: Daniel 8:15-22
A. GABRIEL APPEARED TO DANIEL.
Daniel was left with his head spinning. How can he possibly understand all of these strange symbols? We can fully understand what he is feeling. The symbolism in prophetic language is often just as baffling to us. However God did not leave him in the dark. Even before he asked, one who looked like a man summoned the messenger angel Gabriel to reveal the meaning. The appearance of this supernatural being was so terrifying that Daniel fell to the floor. We often think of angels as cute little cherubs. We would wonder what reaction we would have if a real angel appeared to us!
Today as we study the book of Daniel we have the advantage of understanding these visions from a historical perspective. These world empires have come and gone. We can read about these rulers in books of secular history. Fulfilled prophecy speaks mightily of the trustworthiness of Scripture. But there is a part of the visions that relate to the time of the end. So, we perk up our ears and pay close attention to detail.
B. GABRIEL EMPHASIZED THE TIME OF THE END.
It appears that Daniel had fainted. Gabriel revived him and made him stand up. He called Daniel Son of Man, which refers to Daniel’s humanity as opposed to the supernatural angel. Gabriel quickly revealed that the vision concerns the time of the end. He verifies that the ram represents the kings of Media and Persia. The goat is the king of Greece. Since these kingdoms have risen and fallen even before Christ’s first coming, why does Gabriel describe the visions as depicting the “time of wrath” or the “time of the end?” Again, we are called to focus on typical characteristics of these rulers that point to the ultimate ruler. All of the worst behavior and characteristics of a man in power will be manifested in the Antichrist. However, God is faithful to carefully prepare the world for this time of greatest turmoil and deceit.
- What title is usually given to Gabriel? What was his purpose in appearing to Daniel?
- What will be Gabriel’s next messages from God? (Luke 1:11; Luke 1:26-28)
- How did the angel show kindness to the terrified Daniel?
- God has been faithful to reveal future events to his people. What did Jesus command regarding signs of the end? (Matthew 24:42, 44)
- How faithful are you to study prophecy to know the signs?
DAY FIVE: DANIEL RECEIVED AN INTERPRETATION OF THE SECOND VISION.
Read: Daniel 8:23-27
A. DANIEL SAW THE ULTIMATE ENEMY RULER.
The last ruler was not named by Gabriel. It is believed that the “little horn” was a prophetic picture or “type” of the Antichrist who will appear at the end of the age, so the interpretation seems to blend together a description of both men – Antiochus IV and Antichrist.
Gabriel emphasized that this ruler will become very strong but not by his own power. Gabriel also emphasized that he will be destroyed but not by human power. Gabriel gave these characteristics of the evil ruler (From the NIV version):
Stern-faced (verse 23)
Skillful in intrigue (verse 23)
Supernatural in power (verse 24)
Destructive (verse 24)
Willful (verse 24)
Shrewd (verse 25)
Deceitful (verse 25)
Egotistical (verse 25)
Blasphemous (verse 25)
B. DANIEL WAS INSTRUCTED TO SEAL THE VISION.
Daniel was instructed to record this vision in permanent, written form, so that it could be revealed at some future time. The reason is that it related to future events that would not be fulfilled for many days. The part of the vision that most directly impacts Israel will not begin to be fulfilled until 380 years after Daniel saw the vision. There is no need to reveal it to Daniel’s countrymen at this point.
C. DANIEL REACTED TO THE VISION.
Daniel was so emotionally disturbed by this vision that he became ill for several days. He felt that the vision was beyond understanding. How could God permit all of this evil? How can man be so cruel and rebellious toward the God of heaven and earth? Where did fallen man get his mania to conquer and rule and overpower his fellow man? What about God’s chosen people – how will they be able to endure such evil rulers?
The only good news that Daniel saw was the assurance that the evil rulers will ultimately be destroyed supernaturally by God.
- Which of the characteristics of evil leadership listed above have been exhibited in leaders in more recent history?
- Psalm 145 describes God as the King (ruler). He has modeled the characteristics that human rulers should exhibit. List some of the characteristics of a proper ruler.
- What does God expect from the human rulers he sets up? (Psalm 72:4)
Identify your “rulership domain.” What characteristics will you exhibit in your home, work, or ministry area? (Proverbs 31:8-9)
Daniel’s visions revealed what would happen in the intertestament period. Those 400 years when there was no new word from God were trying times for the Jews, especially when Antiochus IV came to power. Daniel has just seen the worst of human nature in these wicked rulers, attesting to the fact that when men lust for power, they begin to commit unthinkable acts of cruelty and violence.
Daniel also had a preview of how the entire end-time drama is highlighted by the most evil ruler imaginable. While it certainly frightened Daniel, we are grateful to God for carefully preparing the world with descriptions, historical “types,” and assurance that cruel rulers will have a bitter ending.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK: Ultimately God will bring justice to the whole world.
CHALLENGE: Memorize (or write on a card) the beautiful promise of 2 Timothy 4:17-18 to recite when the world’s evil seems strong.
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