(A Daniel 8 Study – Part 1)
Daniel 2:4–7:28 was written in Aramaic, the common commercial language of the Babylonian Empire. However, chapters 8 through 12 were written in Hebrew.
- There, God is speaking directly to His chosen people regarding “the time of the end.”
- In those last five chapters, the focus relates to what will happen to God’s people and His work in that future. That is when Satan and his minions mount incredible resistance against truth just before Jesus returns.
It should be noted that prophecies regarding the sequential empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and the “ten divisions” were already given twice – in Daniel 2 and 7. Though these will be partially revisited in chapter 8, their meaning becomes spiritual, symbolic and eschatologic end-time.
Daniel first orients us as to when he received this unique message:
Belshazzar was the son of King Nabonidus, who, after ruling the Babylonian Empire only three years, went to the oasis town of Tayma (existing today in Saudia Arabia) to live and to worship the moon god, Sin.  The Babylonian Empire was left to his son Belshazzar as co-regent, likely in 553 B.C. He would rein thirteen years before the Babylonian Empire would fall.
- The main source of information regarding this period comes from the Nabonidus Chronicles (now in the British Museum).
- This vision of Daniel would have occurred in 550 or 549 B.C.
The important word for “vision” comes from the Hebrew word hazon. It will later be contrasted with the mareh vision referenced in Daniel 8:14 and 26.
At this point Daniel has been a “captive” in Babylon for ~55 years. He now begins to describe this fascinating vision.
Daniel, though in vision, is still an “eyewitness” of an amazing prophecy. It begins geographically in/by a palace at the Ulai River in Shushan, which is within the province of Elam. Daniel, however, is physically in Babylon (Daniel 8:27). This little information reveals stunning insight.
Shushan (Susa) – “I was in Shushan” (vs 2)
In 647 B.C. Ashurbanipal, the last great king of Assyria, brutally attacked Shushan and leveled the city. This relief carving, found by British archeologist Austen Henry Layard in the 1800s, depicted that war. This king said of his victory, “I devastated the provinces of Elam and on their lands I sowed salt.”
- Shushan, with its palace, would not be rebuilt until 521 B.C., during the reign of Darius I (Persian King Darius the Great ~550–486 B.C.).
- That would then later become the city of Queen Esther (Esther 1:2, 5; 2:3, 5; Nehemiah 1:1).
Why is this important? Daniel, in vision, is at a place in Shushan that did not exist! This immediately suggests that the information to follow has a major future message for God’s people.
Ulai River – “by the Ulai River” (vs 2)
This waterway passed immediately to the north of Shushan. It was apparently hand dug. Some call it a canal. It flowed into the Karun River and then to the Tigris River.
This province, along with the Mesopotamian land mass, was where many of the post-flood inhabitants settled (Genesis 11:2). It included the fertile valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.
Before going to the drama that Daniel witnessed, a look at the rivers in prophecy is helpful.
The Ulai River
In the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation there are three Middle Eastern rivers addressed: in Daniel, the Hiddekel (Tigris) (chapter 10) and the Ulai (canal) (chapter 8 and, likely, the unnamed river in chapter 12); in Revelation, the Euphrates is noted (chapter 16).
In the Old Testament “water” was a common symbol for people (e.g., Psalm 18:4, 16; 124:4; Isaiah 8:7, 17:12-13; Jeremiah 47:2). In an informative session with an apocalyptic angel, John is told that the waters the harlot sat on represented “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Revelation 17:15).
- Therefore, as a visionary symbol, the Ulai River represents a small group of people to the distant east of where Daniel was located.
- This, along with the city of Shushan, have significant spiritual meaning.
This river was small. Noteworthy is that it eventually drained into the Hiddekel (Tigris) River! They then became one body of water. The people of the “little river” (the Ulai) will become one with that greater group of people (the Hiddekel) at the end!
The Ulai represents a smaller group of individuals to the east – a group of people who will bring deliverance. The 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7:4 and 14:1-5 match this small group perfectly. They become the forward witnesses in earth’s last gospel message.
- Intriguingly, Daniel 11’s antichrist prophecy notes that “tidings out of the east” (again, where deliverance comes from) “and out of the north” (where God’s throne is – Psalm 48:2) “troubled him” (Daniel 11:44). This group of people are successfully finishing the gospel work when the antichrist lashes out at them (of Revelation 11:7, 13:7)!
- God’s people are “they that understand,” who “shall instruct many” (Daniel 11:33a). The gospel cry to the world is being effective.
- This is the work of the 144,000, the Ulai symbol.
- That is why tidings out of the east trouble “him.” The antichrist hates their success.
Why is this Ulai River so important? Every time a river is mentioned in Daniel, Jesus is there. Recall also that this little river became part of the large Hiddekel (Tigris) River before the end.
Drama at the Ulai
Knowing that these rivers represent people, the portrayed events that surround them are distinct messages for each group. Therefore, the following Ulai message is especially apropos to the 144,000, God’s last-day “evangelists.”
Lifting up his eyes to see is a great metaphor found in several places in the Bible. The most striking relates to Abraham.
- “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son” (Genesis 22:13).
- This contrast between the human (Isaac) and the saving ram (symbolic of Jesus) is profound!
- That ram represented deliverance to Isaac.
- It was sacrificed in place of man.
- It symbolized Jesus, the “ram of God.”
Lifting up one’s eyes to Jesus brings the promise of deliverance. A deliverance theme will later follow. Daniel then says “behold.” He is saying, “I want you to see what I am seeing.”
- The Dead Sea Scrolls describe this ram in Daniel 8 as a large animal.
- It could not to be missed if one lifted up his/her eyes to look!
The seer describes this ram as though he is watching sequenced events!
- The ram with two horns is static. Then:
- The horns grew while he was watching. Both grew high, but the taller came up last (moving picture).
- He will shortly see the ram going out on a mission (moving picture).
Stunning thoughts: Verse 20 says that the ram with its two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. Historically, this is assumed to be Darius I the Mede (lesser horn) and Cyrus the Great (the greater horn) (still future to Daniel). However, is God really repeating these “empire prophecies” for a third time (first in Daniel 2 and then in Daniel 7)?
A major timing point is addressed with this ram study. Gabriel would later tell Daniel (before he even uses the interpretive words “Medo-Persia” in 8:20):
- “So he [Gabriel] 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” (Daniel 8:17). That’s significant! Now, listen to what follows!
- “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” (Daniel 8:19).
The symbols, illustrations, lessons of Daniel 8 are for the “time-of-the-end” people! This chapter begins unique messages distinctly for the 144,000 – those Ulai people! They will be notified of many end-time prophecies all the way through this Hebrew portion.
The “appointed time” at the “time of the end” is further described in Daniel 11:30-45 and chapter 12. It relates to the last three and a half years of earth’s history.
River Ulai People of the east
Ram Medo-Persia Jesus (by that river) – Deliverer
Horns Darius I, Cyrus 144,000 / great multitude
The Ram on a Mission
Daniel, in first person, assures us that what he is about to describe, he actually witnessed (affirming how true his visions really are).
The directions of the ram’s movements meant that it originated from the east. Historically, Medo-Persian king Cyrus attacked Babylon from the east. He brought deliverance to God’s people! There, a wonderful message is being represented! When Christ returns, it will be as lightning from the east to the west (Matthew 24:27). There is a stunning prophecy about Cyrus given long before he or Daniel were born. Not only was Gentile Cyrus specifically identified by Isaiah, but he was designated as a Messianic deliverer.
“That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut … I have raised him up in righteousness, and
I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1, 13) (~690 B.C.).
- This is stunning! There’s more in chapters 45 and 46.
His anointed (Isaiah 45:1) God anointed Him (Acts 10:38)
Came from the east (Isaiah 46:11) Comes as lightning from the east (Matthew 24:27)
Set captives free (Isaiah 45:13) Deliverance of captives (Luke 4:16)
Called righteous (Isaiah 45:13) The Righteous (I John 2:1)
In an end-time setting, this Messianic metaphor of Cyrus represents Jesus, the “ram of God,” as a deliverer.
- Later, Daniel apparently, though aged and having been quietly serving the Empire (Daniel 8:27), briefed Cyrus regarding Isaiah and, likely, Jeremiah’s timed prophecies (Jeremiah 25:11, 29:10). Cyrus’ reaction:
- “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up” (II Chronicles 36:23).
The king’s decree is recorded word for word in Ezra 6:3-5 (cf. Ezra 1:1-4). Cyrus became the deliverer for God’s people in Babylonian captivity. Daniel will later, in another prophecy, reveal that Jesus (called Michael) is associated with the deliverance of God’s last-day people (12:1)!
The Ulai River where this ram originated was east or outside of the boundaries of the land given in covenant promise to Israel!
- It appears in Revelation that from somewhere outside of “Babylon” (apostate Protestantism and Catholicism) will come a deliverance people to call God’s captives back to “Canaan.”
- The large Hiddekel River, still east of Babylon, discussed in Daniel 10, again appears to be symbolic of the great multitude – those won to Christ (referenced in Revelation 7:9, 14).
“The light that Daniel received from God was given especially for these last days. The visions he saw by the banks of the Ulai and the Hiddekel, the great rivers of Shinar (an ancient name for the Babylonian Empire of the Mesopotamian Plain), are now in process of fulfillment, and all the events foretold will soon come to pass.”
“so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand” (vs 4)
God had prophesied that Cyrus would not fail (Isaiah 45:13), just as He does for those last-day witnesses (Revelation 11:5-7a).
Cyrus has gone down in history as one of the most benevolent conquerors of all times, allowing his subjects to live and worship as they pleased.
Cyrus liberated God’s people from Babylon – Ram Jesus will aid God’s witness to liberate those waiting to be called out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4) or apostate Christianity (cf. 11:5-7a).
Daniel 8:4 ends with an unusual phrase:
“he did according to his will, and became great” (vs 4)
This phrase carries for many expositors a sinister suggestion that his overwhelming pride makes him ripe for a fall. But this represents Christ and His people. For a divine being, it is used in an “unequivocally good sense of God (I Samuel 12:24, Psalm 126:2-3).” Contextually, the ram will accomplish great things or make things great.
The imagery suggests that the mission of Ram Jesus and His people will move forward with global success. This mission is not defined directly in chapter 8 – but is explained more in chapter 11 and in many places in Revelation.
Just as in Revelation, something then happens that is demon-driven:
Satan has a Short-lived Victory
“behold, an he goat came from the west” (vs 5)
Some translate it “a male goat of the goats.” Most translations use the simple “he-goat” for the word sapir., The story deepens when Gabriel explains what the meaning of that goat is in verse 21. After sapir, the word sair is added, implying that the goat is hairy or shaggy. In Genesis 27:11 and 23, sair is used for Jacob’s “hairy deception” of his father! Sair is even used by many translations as a demon or false god (Leviticus 17:7, II Chronicles 11:15).
As Daniel is still working his way through the complexity of the ram–river vision, his thoughts are interrupted by this goat. Daniel is told that it was the king of Greece (8:21).
- Historically, Alexander the Great, Greece’s first king, was one of history’s greatest warriors. He also wanted to be “like God” (discussed later).
- That was similar to Satan’s desire – he had characteristics driving him to be “like the most high” (Isaiah 14:14).
Since the he-goat is symbolic for Greece (vs 21), it also parallels the leopard-like beast of Daniel 7:6. In turn:
- The sea-beast of Revelation 13:1-2 (NIV) resembles a leopard, though having the feet of a bear and a mouth like a lion. That imagery is of the apocalyptic antichrist that enamors the world but wars against the saints. He is Satan’s representative (13:2).
- In Christ’s account of those who will be lost, they are segregated out at His coming. To His “left” are the “goats” (Matthew 25:33). This demonic goat symbolism is carried prophetically to the end of time. As noted, that is the main focus of this prophecy (Daniel 8:17, 19).
What will Satan’s spirit and kingdom be like at the end of time?
“Satan … [will] work more powerfully … than ever he has before. He knows that his time is short [Revelation 12:12] and that the sealing of the saints [Revelation 7] will place them beyond his power; he will now work in every way that he can and will try his every insinuation to get the saints off from their guard and get them asleep on the present truth or doubting it [deceived regarding truth], so as to prevent their being sealed with the seal of the living God.”
- “But as the church approaches her final deliverance, Satan is to work with greater power. He comes down ‘having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.’ Revelation 12:12. He will work ‘with all power and signs and lying wonders.’ 2 Thessalonians 2:9. For six thousand years that mastermind that once was highest among the angels of God has been wholly bent to the work of deception and ruin. And all the depths of satanic skill and subtlety acquired, all the cruelty developed, during these struggles of the ages, will be brought to bear against God’s people in the final conflict.”
“came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground” (vs 5)
From Daniel’s vantage point, the Greek Empire (this goat – vs 21) was to the west. The exploits of Alexander the Great, its great horn, would originate west of Babylon, as would an end-time “horn” (discussed in part 2 of this study).
“the goat had a notable horn between its eyes” (vs 5)
The “conspicuous horn between his eyes” shows it is totally acting in the goat’s behalf, as though it were the goat. Historically, Alexander the Great’s victories at Granicus (334 B.C.), Issus (333 B.C.) and Arbela (331 B.C.) brought the Greek Empire into world dominance.
- The hatred of Alexander the Great was intense toward Medo-Persia from its earlier invasion of Greece by Darius I (490 B.C.) and Xerxes I (480 B.C.) (King Ahasuerus of Esther’s day).
- His drive for revenge led to those attacks.
There is something very unusual that is presented in these verses:
- If the he-goat is Satan’s kingdom (and it is) and he wants to be like God (and he does) (Isaiah 14:14) – might the great horn (Alexander the Great), which gives the he-goat (Greece) power want to be like God also?
- With up to 40,000 men, he fought for thirteen years (336–323 B.C.) to conquer the world. He wanted the world – just like Satan wanted the world! But he wanted more.
Here is the story of Alexander’s “god” desire: In Egypt at this time there was a ram god called Ammon, which had been joined with the sun god Ra. That god (Ammon Ra – pronounced Re) became known all over the world. Alexander craved to be like that god. He wanted to see the “oracles” or writings related to Ammon, then be announced as its earthly potentate.
In 331 B.C. he set out to see the “Oracle of Ammon” located in a temple in the Egyptian Oasis of Siwa. At that time it was considered one of the most prominent and sacred of ancient writings. As he entered Egypt he was proclaimed a pharaoh by the people of the Nile. Alexander then followed a desert route to the oasis town of Siwa. The chief priest of the ram-sun god Ammon-Ra welcomed him.
To see those oracles as a representation of that god, Alexander dressed up in ram’s skin with ram horns. He entered the temple to worship Ammon-Ra dressed like the ram god!
Then – the chief priest of the god Ammon identified Alexander as:
- The “Son of God” – son of that ram god!
- He was then allowed access into the inner sanctum of the temple, the Adyton, where only priests were to go. (Parts of that temple remain today.)
Can you see what these symbols represent?! Goat Satan and the great horn (the end-time antichrist) – all typed in history through Alexander the Great!
He then returned to Shushan (Persian capital), which had been rebuilt by Darius the Great (552–486 B.C.) in ~521 B.C.
- In ~330 B.C. Alexander was crowned (at his request) as “king” and “ram god” by his troops.
- Then he sent word to Greece, to the “League of Corinth,” the ruling body, that He was now to be accorded the title of “divine” – a ram god. From then on all Grecian coins were struck with his image. (Many examples can be seen on the Internet.)
Daniel now pinpoints the outcome of the ram/goat encounter. It may seem at first like “something is wrong” – but John the Revelator will concur. The he-goat came from the “west” – symbolic of apostasy – a symbol gleaned from Ephraim’s rebellion. His location around the sanctuary as a lead tribe was to the west.
Evidence suggests that the he-goat began this attack as the ram was on its global mission.
“And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river,” (vs 6)
The goat is now approaching the ram.
- Historically, Greece, from the west, approached Medo-Persia in the east – the countries and their symbols were about to clash.
- In apocalyptic imagery (the greater purpose of this prophecy):
- The ram represents Jesus’ kingdom with all His followers (the two horns), giving it great power. (John tells us that the mission will be successful Revelation 11:7a.)
- The he-goat is Satan’s kingdom with his followers (the horn) – the antichrist.
- We have accordingly a great controversy scene – a battle scene between good and evil.
- It is a significant prophecy of the conflict between Christ and Satan just before the end. The world will see a final standoff between good and evil. The raw power of Satan will be on display through humans! It will appear that he is winning.
- “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints” (Revelation 17:6a). (Her name is “Babylon.”)
- The culmination of this controversy is described as the time when the four winds will be let loose (Revelation 7:2-3). (“Winds” relates to strife, violence, active hatred against right.)
- “Satan is busily laying his plans for the last mighty conflict, when all will take sides…. [He] is working to the utmost to make himself as God and to destroy all who oppose his power. And today the world is bowing before him. His power is received as the power of God.”
- The scope of this controversy:
- Onset: Revelation 12:7, 9: “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon” in heaven and he was cast to the earth.
- This battle: “ran unto him in the fury of his power” (Daniel 8:6).
- Its end (good news): “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
“and ran unto him in the fury of his power” (vs 6)
This attack is described by John: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).
What end-time power who wants to be like God (a single horn – like Alexander) will seek to harm God’s ram people?
- It will be described soon – it is called “the little horn!” (Daniel 8:9-12).
- During the Dark Ages the papacy in Daniel 7 was presented as:
- A little horn (7:8) with eyes like man (7:8) and a mouth speaking great things (terrible things) against God (7:8, 25). It gave power to that hideous Roman kingdom.
- It made war against the saints and prevailed (7:21) (like this he-goat against the ram).
- A time of executive judgment finally comes (a court sitting) and he is destroyed (7:9-11).
History will be repeated in the final drama in earth’s conflict between Christ and Satan, right and wrong. Daniel 11 and 12’s narratives begin to fill in details that becomes more graphic.
The image is one of attacking to destroy. Daniel is emotionally engaged and adds these details.
“come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him,” (vs 7)
- The Dead Sea Scrolls add the word “great” before the word “ram.”
- “Choler” (marar – H) represents rage.
We can find many other areas where Satan, through his agent the antichrist, is bitter and full of rage against God’s people.
“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” (Revelation 13:7). That “beast” was given power by the dragon, Satan (vs 2). Satan is making one last, frenzied drive to nullify the work of Christ (cf. Revelation 12:12).
What now follows is a major prophecy of Satan’s final, “short term” success. Be aware that God/Christ is the final victor.
“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” (vs 7)
Historically, we can see the stunning success that Alexander the Great had over the powerful Medo-Persian armies. His attacks were so swift (completed in 3 years) that the Bible says the he-goat with that horn didn’t even touch the ground (vs 5; cf. Isaiah 41:3). Recall, however, that this great general died at the age of 32.
Question: If this is a mirror of earth’s final battle, how is it that, here, Christ and His people are suffering defeat? This will be discussed in Part 2 when the initial success of Satan and his antichrist appear to be unparalleled. But – that is permitted to make God’s final victory all the more dramatic!
The two horns are broken.
- That means they and the Ram are now powerless.
- The two end-time powers that helped bring the gospel to the world are now silenced – just like the two witnesses were “dead in the streets” in Revelation 11:7-9.
- The smaller horn (144,000) and the larger horn (the great multitude) are now ineffective. But Revelation 11:7a says that they will have successfully completed their mission of bringing the gospel to the world!
“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” (vs 7)
Now he not only attacks Ram Jesus but tramples on Him. This is highly symbolic of revenge and hatred that occurred against Christ and will occur against Christianity at the end.
When the two witnesses are “killed” (silenced), their mission is complete (Revelation 11:7) – it was already a success! That echoes the successful mission of the ram noted in Daniel 8:4. God explains the future, always giving hope, despite the horrors, so we will not be surprised.
A summation statement regarding the he-goat is finally made.
- Alexander, typified by that great horn, claimed himself to be a god, which dismayed his troops. They were required to prostrate themselves before him in worship. It suggests stunning pride and arrogance tied to his great power.
“and when he was strong, the great horn was broken;” (vs 8)
As will be explained in Part 2, like Alexander the Great’s death, so will the antichrist come to its end (Daniel 8:25, 11:45).
“and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven” (vs 8)
When Alexander died, he had no mature son as his successor. His only known son had not yet been born, and later that son, Alexander IV, was murdered. After much conflict, the Empire was split among four of his generals: “The far west went to Cassander, the north to Lysimachus, the east to Seleucus, and the south to Ptolemy.”
There is no clear eschatological application to these four horns. But it appears to many that they represent the false trinity (of Revelation) plus Islam (seen as the “king of the south” in Daniel 11).
A major transition now occurs in Daniel’s visions. God now informs us that the last-day focus is to be on an eschatologic “little horn” that becomes great, symbolized by that great goat horn! At the end, before it is broken, it represents the antichrist. (Discussed in Part 2 to be posted early December. November's issue will be on the New World Order.)
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EndTime Issues…; Number 230; October 3, 2019
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