Daniel 8

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Daniel 8, the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel, concerns Daniel's vision of the ram and the he-goat.[1] This vision is part of a series of episodes that is a continuation from Daniel 7.[2] The fragmentary vision concerns a battle between a two-horned ram and a he-goat with "a notable horn" between its eyes, often referred to as the "little horn" from which four horns succeed. Daniel is met by the angel Gabriel who partially interprets the visions in cryptic ways.[3] The climax of the chapter is the revolt of the "little horn" and his ultimate defeat.[2]


Daniel sees himself at Susa (Heb: "Shushan"), the capital[4] near the river Ulai. The canal may have run along the north side of the fortress of Susa, a royal palace for the Persian kings of ancient Elam, just east of Babylonia.[5] From a source critical perspective, visionary experiences are frequently associated with riverbank settings.[4]

The literary genre of the Daniel 8 vision is considered to be a symbolic dream vision, despite Josephus' claim that Daniel was actually there,[6] using both allegorical and mythic-realistic symbols. It is proposed that Daniel 7 and 8 were written by different persons due to the transition from Aramaic to Hebrew. Though there are stylistic differences between the two chapters,[7] Daniel 7 and 8 are parts of a composite whole, so that even if composed by a group, both chapters together are considered a coherent literary work. The epiphany of the angel Gabriel, links Daniel 8 to Daniel 10 and is influenced by Ezekiel 8:2 and the Book of Habakkuk.[8]

Vision of a ram and a goat[edit]

The ram and the goat.

Daniel sees a ram with two horns, one longer than the other. The ram charges west, north, and then south. The ram is powerful, none could stand against it. He does what he pleases and becomes great.[Dan. 8:1–4]

Then a goat comes from the west, having a single large horn, crossing the earth without touching the ground. It strikes the ram, breaks its two horns, knocks it down, and tramples him. But at the height of his power, the goat's horn is broken and in its place, four horns grow toward the four winds of heaven.[Dan. 8:5-8]

One of the horns is small but grows great, like the prince of host. It prospers in everything, throws stars down to the ground and tramples on them, stopping the daily sacrifice, destroying the sanctuary and throwing truth to the ground.[Dan. 8:9-12]

Daniel is told how long it will take for the vision to be fulfilled—2,300 evenings and mornings—then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated (cleansed).[Dan. 8:13-14]

After Daniel has seen the vision, someone looking like a man, called Gabriel, appears to tell Daniel. Daniel falls down in fear. Gabriel tells Daniel the meaning of the vision, giving him "skill and understanding" regarding the vision about the time of the end, but Daniel passes out. Gabriel wakes him up and again tells him that the vision is about the time of the end.[Dan. 8:15-19]


The ram and he-goat[edit]

The Alexander Mosaic depicting Darius III of Persia fleeing before Alexander the Great at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. Many scholars see this as what is referred to in Daniel 8:7, where it says that the goat "struck the ram and broke his two horns."

The ram and he-goat are interpreted explicitly as the kings of Media-Persia and Greece. The use of such animal symbolism may be astrological in nature referring to the Hellenistic constellations that preside over Persia and Syria (Caqout, Koch).[9]

In verses 3 and 4 of Daniel’s second vision, a ram appears standing by the river Ulai having two horns, one higher than the other. According to verse 20, the two horns represent the kings of Media and Persia.[4]

In verses 5-7, a male goat then appears from the west. Verse 21 states that the male goat is the king of Greece. Scholars have associated this male goat with Alexander the Great and his armies.[10]

Little horn[edit]

The little horn, who casts some of the stars to the ground, may be an allusion for Helal ben Shacar ("Lucifer (RSV Daystar), son of Dawn") in |Isaiah 14:12 which parallels to the Ugaritic myth of Attar's attempt to occupy the throne of Baal.[9]

In Revelation chapter 13 (verses 1-10) is described another beast, "like unto a leopard," to which the dragon gave "his power, and his seat, and great authority." This symbol, as most Protestants have believed, represents the papacy, which succeeded to the power and seat and authority once held by the ancient Roman empire. Of the leopardlike beast it is declared: "There was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. . . . And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations." According to Ellen G. White, this prophecy, which is nearly identical with the description of the little horn of Daniel 7, unquestionably points to the papacy.[11]

In the vision, the he-goat's first horn is broken, giving rise to four horns in its place. The "little horn" is sometimes understood to be one of the four horns that replaced the notable horn, who is accepted as Antiochus IV Epiphanes by historical-critical scholars.[12][9] Daniel 8:10–14 is referenced to Antiochus' dealings with the Jewish people under his rule, which ended with the Maccabean Revolt. In addition, Daniel 11, with references to Persia and Greece and two kings, is thought by some to refer to the Seleucids, and specifically to Antiochus Epiphanes as "The King of the North".[13]

Daniel 11:36 introduces a King who “shall do according to his will”. He is neither the “King of the North”, nor the “King of the South” since he wages war against both of them.[14] Many historicists identify this King as the “little horn.”[15] They often disagree with the interpretation that Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the “little horn” as he was a King of the Seleucid Dynasty and therefore one of the four horns of Daniel 8, not a 5th.[16] He neither destroyed the City nor the Temple but performed sacrificial rites typical of Greek Temples. (The offering of pigs as sacrificial animals was not uncommon in Greek temples)[17][18] Antiochus forcefully imposed his ancestral Greek religion upon the Jews by rededicating the Jerusalem Temple to Zeus, in contrast to Daniel 11:37 which reads: “He will have no respect for the gods of his ancestors”.

Sir Isaac Newton (1733) criticized the interpretation that the “little horn” was Antiochus IV Epiphanes as being highly superficial. He expressed the view of many historicists as follows:

“This last horn is by some taken for Antiochus Epiphanes, but not very judiciously. A horn of a Beast is never taken for a single person: it always signifies a new kingdom, and the kingdom of Antiochus was an old one. Antiochus reigned over one of the four horns, and the little horn was a fifth under its proper kings. This horn was at first a little one, and waxed exceeding great, but so did not Antiochus. It is described great above all the former horns, and so was not Antiochus. His kingdom on the contrary was weak, and tributary to the Romans, and he did not enlarge it. The horn was a King of fierce countenance, and destroyed wonderfully, and prospered and practised; that is, he prospered in his practices against the holy people: but Antiochus was frighted out of Egypt by a mere message of the Romans, and afterwards routed and baffled by the Jews. The horn was mighty by another's power, Antiochus acted by his own. The horn stood up against the Prince of the Host of heaven, the Prince of Princes; and this is the character not of Antiochus but of Antichrist. The horn cast down the Sanctuary to the ground, and so did not Antiochus; he left it standing. The Sanctuary and Host were trampled under foot 2300 days; and in Daniel's Prophecies days are put for years: but the profanation of the Temple in the reign of Antiochus did not last so many natural days. These were to last till the time of the end, till the last end of the indignation against the Jews; and this indignation is not yet at an end. They were to last till the Sanctuary which had been cast down should be cleansed, and the Sanctuary is not yet cleansed.” [19]

Instead of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, some historicists see this 5th horn as the Kingdom of Pergamum (or Pergamos) which was the rump state left after the collapse of the Kingdom of Thrace (281 BC), one of the four divisions of the Greek Empire. Pergamum, under the Attalids was among Rome's most loyal allies in the east and joined in the Macedonian Wars. The Attalids ruled Pergamon until Attalus III bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman Republic in 133 BC to avoid a likely succession crisis. Thus, the eastern half of the Roman Empire (later called the Byzantine Empire) came into existence.

The “Voice of Israel” (1845), edited by Ridley Haim Herschell, says:

Page 125: “Next, out of one of these four horns there comes up another little horn; that is, out of the territory of one of these four kings there springs up another little kingdom. This part of the vision was anciently applied to Anitochus Epiphanes; but his kingdom was a component part of one of the four, not a new fifth kingdom, arising out of one of them. This little horn is PERGAMOS. The origin of this kingdom is well known. Lysimachus, having deposited all his treasures in the citadel of Pergamos, intrusted the government of the place to Philetaerus. Philetaerus rebelled against his master, seized the citadel and all its treasures for himself, retained possession of the city and the country around it till his death, and transmitted them to his posterity. He thus laid the foundation of a new kingdom; a little horn springing up out of the horn of Lysimachus, one of the four which succeeded the first great horn of Alexander.” Page 166: “The great horn of Alexander being broken, four stand up for it; and out of one of those four there comes up another distinct little horn, the embryo of the fourth empire. No image can be conceived which could picture to us the rise of the little kingdom of Pergamos with more exact and graphical precision. Any remark would but mar its beauty: the image is perfect. The fourth vision is chronological: it marks the commencement of the latter times, and the principal divisions of those times.” [20]

By this means, many historicists reconcile the “little horn” of Daniel 7, which arises out of Rome, with the “little horn” of Daniel 8 which arises out of one of the four divisions of the Greek Empire. The “little horn” of Daniel 8 illustrating the Greek origins of the eastern Roman Empire through Pergamum and its continuance as the Papacy. The eastern Roman Empire (later called the Byzantine Empire) eventually did fall (in 1453), but not before restoring the City of Rome as a part of the Roman Empire (536 AD) during the reign of Justinian I . This restoration of Rome and the later elevation of the Popes as its temporal rulers (756 AD) [21] provided historicists a continuum from ancient Pergamum to the current Papacy as the “little horn” of both Daniel 7 and Daniel 8.[22]

The directions given in Daniel 8:9: “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.” are the directions from Pergamum to the Holy Land, and was also the path the Roman Armies took under General Pompey.[23]

It became the capitol of the Roman province of Asia (minor), where Paul and Timothy were prohibited by the Holy Spirit from preaching.[24] Later, Paul said that “all they which are in Asia” had turned against him,[25] and it is finally mentioned by John who described it as being where Satan's seat is:

“I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” [26]

Historicist views[edit]


Julius Caesar identified as the king in Daniel 8:23-25, depicted in armour and with a laurel wreath, on horseback, bearing a standard depicting an eagle; the horse trampling three kings with standards depicting a lion, a ram and a goat. Engraving by Adriaen Collaert, Plate 4 of Four Illustrious Rulers of Antiquity.

The historicist interpretation of Daniel 8 was at one point held by Protestant churches during the Reformation. According to Seventh-day Adventist historian Le Roy Froom, "The Reformation ... was really born of a twofold discovery--first, the rediscovery of Christ and His salvation; and second, the discovery of the identity of Antichrist and his subversions."[27] "The reformers were unanimous in its acceptance. And it was this interpretation of prophecy that lent emphasis to their reformatory action. It led them to protest against Rome with extraordinary strength and undaunted courage. ... This was the rallying point and the battle cry that made the Reformation unconquerable."[28]

Seventh-day Adventists[edit]

The prophecy of 2,300 days in Daniel 8:14 plays an important role in Seventh-day Adventist eschatology. The 2,300 days are interpreted as 2,300 actual years using the Day-year principle.[29] According to the Adventist teaching, this period starts in unison with the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks in 457 BC and ends in 1844 AD.[30] It was thought that the end of this period would bring the End of Days as advocated by the Millerite movement at the turn of the 19th century.[citation needed]

Chapter Parallel sequence of prophetic elements as understood by Historicists[31][32]
Past Present Future
Daniel 2 Head
Chest & 2 arms
Belly and thighs
2 Legs
2 Feet with toes
Clay & Iron
God's unending kingdom
left to no other people
Daniel 7 Winged Lion Lopsided Bear 4 Headed/4 Winged
Iron toothed beast
w/Little Horn
Judgment scene
Beast slain
A son of man comes in clouds
Given everlasting dominion
He gives it to the saints.[33]
Daniel 8 2-horned Ram
Uni- / 4-horned Goat
4 Winds (Greece)
Little Horn
A Master of Intrigue
Cleansing of Sanctuary
Leads to:
(Kingdom of God)

Baha'i Faith[edit]

The Baha'i Faith interprets the prophecy of the 2300 days and the 70 weeks in the same manner as the Seventh-day Adventists, with the period ending in the year 1844.[34] In Baha'i belief, 1844 marked the end of the old world and the start of the millennial period.[35] This meant the end of the Islamic age, the end of the prophetic cycle of all religions, and the inauguration of the common era where the fulfillment of prophecies would occur for all religions. For the Baha'i, the promise of the return of God's Messenger was fulfilled in this year by the appearance of the Báb, followed 19 years later by Baha'u'llah.[36]


Methodist theologian and historicist Adam Clarke proposed an alternative to the 1844 date as used by Seventh-day Adventists and followers of Bahá'í Faith. Clarke viewed Daniel 8 as a separate vision from Daniel 7. In his 1831 commentary on Daniel 8:14, he states that the 2,300-year period should be calculated from 334 BC, the year Alexander the Great began his conquest of the Persian Empire. His calculation ends in the year 1966, where he links to Daniel 7:25.[37]

See also[edit]




  1. ^ Collins 1984, p. 83.
  2. ^ a b Collins 1984, p. 85.
  3. ^ Boyer 1994, p. 28
  4. ^ a b c Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Newsom, Carol A. et al., eds. (2007). The new Oxford annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books: New Revised Standard Version (Augm. 3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 1269, See footnote 8.1–14. ISBN 0-19-528880-7. 
  5. ^ Singer-Towns, Brian (2005). The New American Bible. (Basic youth ed.). Winona, Minn.: Saint Mary's Press. p. 969, See footnote 8,2. ISBN 0-88489-863-6. 
  6. ^ Collins 1984, p. 86: (Josephus Ant. 10.11.7 §§263-66)
  7. ^ Collins 1984, p. 87: (Niditch, ch.3)
  8. ^ Collins 1984, p. 86, 87.
  9. ^ a b c Collins 1984, p. 87.
  10. ^ Michael D. Coogan, ed. (2007). pp. 1269–70, See footnote 8.5.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ (The Great Controversy p439)
  12. ^ Boyer 1994, pp. 28–31.
  13. ^ H. H. Rowley, The Growth of the Old Testament, Harper: 1950, p. 158))
  14. ^ Daniel 11:40 “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him... ”
  15. ^ Moses Lowman “A Paraphrase and Notes on the Revelation of St. John” (1807) Page 159
  16. ^ “The Hebrew Christian Witness and Prophetic Investigator” London: Eliot Stock (1874) Page 76: “Note. Antiochus Epiphanes was not the little horn, for his kingdom (Syria) was a component part of one of the four, not a new 5th kingdom arising out of one of them.”
  17. ^ Harrison, pp. 16, 161, et passim; LSJ:ὁλόκαυτος; Xenophon, Anabasis, 7.8.
  18. ^ see Lustratio
  19. ^ Isaac Newton “Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John” London: J. Darby and T. Browne (1733) Chapter 9, Page 123
  20. ^ Ridley Haim Herschell (editor) “The Voice of Israel” London: J. Unwin (1845) Vol. 1,
  21. ^ Donation of Pepin
  22. ^ Elisabeth Wilson “Lights and Shadows” London: S.W. Partridge and Co. (1881) Pages 336, 337: “The Fifth Vision (Dan. viii.) is that of the Ram, representing Persia; the He-Goat, Greece ; and the Little Horn, supposed by some to be the Turkish Power, but by others to be the Papacy, which derived its authority from Pergamos, the last king of which bequeathed the office of "Pontifex Maximus" to the Roman People, in due time taken up by the Bishop of Rome. (See ch. ix.)”, “the Little Horn, the Roman Power, as having inherited the high-priesthood of Babylon (ultimately assumed by the Papacy) from the last king of Pergamos, and thus springing up in the midst of the Grecian Empire.”
  23. ^ “The Hebrew Christian Witness and Prophetic Investigator” London: Chaloner and Cooke (1874) Page 77: “The conquests of "the little horn" from Pergamos, are "toward the south (Egypt) ; toward the east" (Babylonia, Persia, Media, &c.), " and toward the pleasant land" (Palestine):”
  24. ^ “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.” Acts 16:6
  25. ^ “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.” 2 Timothy 1:15
  26. ^ Revelation 2:13
  27. ^ Froom 1948, p. 243
  28. ^ Froom 1948, pp. 244, 245
  29. ^ White, Ellen. "The Great Controversy 1888 Edition". Ellen G White Estate. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  30. ^ White, Ellen. "The Great Controversy 1888 Edition". Ellen G White Estate. 
  31. ^ Smith 1944
  32. ^ Anderson 1975
  33. ^ Daniel 7:13-27 see verses 13, 14, 22, 27
  34. ^ Some Answered Questions by 'Abdu'l-Baha (Chapter 10)
  35. ^ Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, CLXVI
  36. ^ Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, XXV
  37. ^ Earle, abridged by Ralph (1831). Adam Clarke's commentary on the Bible (Reprint 1967 ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: World Pub. ISBN 9780529106346. 
  38. ^ After table in Froom 1950, pp. 456–7
  39. ^ After table in Froom 1950, pp. 894-75
  40. ^ a b After table in Froom 1948, pp. 528–9
  41. ^ After table in Froom 1948, pp. 784–5
  42. ^ After table in Froom 1946, pp. 744–5