Summary: Daniel 8 is written for the depressed, the battle-weary, and the short-sighted. God is involved in the battle. And he is definitely in control.
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All scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation.
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How many of you have served in the military?
How many of you have actually been in a battle?
Warfare is the backdrop of our passage this morning – except that in this battle it appeared that the good guys were losing – and that it was a battle to which there would be no end.
This is again, apocalyptic literature – the strange highly-symbolic visions which are meant to provide a sense of hope for God’s people in a desperate situation.
Remember, this is the sixth century BC and the Jewish people were living in exile in Babylon. AND they were definitely feeling like their lives were totally out of control -- as though God had deserted them and they were in an unwinnable battle.
In the midst of this Daniel has several visions – including the one recorded here in chapter 8.
Verse 1 – "During the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, saw another vision, following the one that had already appeared to me. This time I was at the fortress of Susa, in the province of Elam, standing beside the Ulai River. As I looked up, I saw in front of me a ram with two long horns standing beside the river. One of the horns was longer than the other, even though it had begun to grow later than the shorter one. The ram butted everything out of its way to the west, to the north, and to the south, and no one could stand against it or help its victims. It did as it pleased and became very great."
I don’t want to get into a lot of detail here but verse 20 tells us that "The two-horned ram represents the kings of Media and Persia."
Then, verse 5, "While I was watching, suddenly a male goat appeared from the west, crossing the land so swiftly that it didn’t even touch the ground. This goat, which had one very large horn between its eyes, headed toward the two-horned ram that I had seen standing beside the river. The goat charged furiously at the ram and struck it, breaking off both its horns. Now the ram was helpless, and the goat knocked it down and trampled it. There was no one who could rescue the ram from the goat’s power.
"The goat became very powerful. But at the height of its power, its large horn was broken off. In the large horn’s place grew four prominent horns pointing in the four directions of the earth. 9 From one of the prominent horns came a small horn whose power grew very great. It extended toward the south and the east and toward the glorious land of Israel."
This, according to vs. 21, is the Greek empire.
"The shaggy male goat represents the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes represents the first king of the Greek Empire. The four prominent horns that replaced the one large horn show that the Greek Empire will break into four sections with four kings, none of them as great as the first."
Now, if you remember what you learned in your Western History class all of this fits in perfectly with what actually happened in the second century BC. Alexander the Great in a very surprising burst of power dominated from Italy to India. But he suddenly died in 323 BC and the Greek Empire was carved up by Alexander’s generals – the Diadochi.
The Diadochi appears to be the four prominent horns of verses 8 and 22.
The horn that grew to be dominant over the others was perhaps Antiochus IV – who would fit well in with verse 23 – "a fierce king, a master of intrigue..."
He is the one who ordered the halt to Jewish Temple sacrifices in 167 BC and who set up an object associated with the god Zeus in the Temple – and then
sacrificed a pig to it – which is what the Jews called the “abomination that causes desolation.”
This is a blow to the “hosts of heavens” or the army of God.
Verse 10 – "His power reached to the heavens where it attacked the heavenly armies, throwing some of the heavenly beings and stars to the ground and trampling them. He even challenged the Commander of heaven’s armies by canceling the daily sacrifices offered to him and by destroying his Temple. 12But the army of heaven was restrained from destroying him for this sin. As a result, sacrilege was committed against the Temple ceremonies, and truth was overthrown. The horn succeeded in everything it did."