Summary: Key verse: Because of rebellion... It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. - Daniel 8:12
"In the third year of King Belshazzar's reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me." - Daniel 8:1
This was a hard one. The chapter ends with Daniel telling us that this vision left him exhausted and physically ill. He confessed that this vision was beyond understanding. If Daniel couldn't understand it (And he had the help of the angel Gabriel to explain it to him), then what hope is there for us to understand this vision? Nevertheless, this is the Word of God which is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).
So, with a spirit of humility, let us proceed with caution and see what the Lord has for us.
When: When did Daniel have this vision? In 550 B.C. "...the 3rd year of King Belshazzar's reign." (This is important!)
Daniel was spiritually transported to a place that would eventually become the capital of the Persian Empire located 230 miles directly East of Babylon, 150 miles North of the Persian Gulf, in what is today known as Kuwait. It was the home of Esther in 460 B.C., and the home of Nehemiah in 445 B.C.. But in 550 B.C., it was NOTHING!
What: What did Daniel see?
1. A Ram
"I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great." - Daniel 8:3-4
There is no mystery as to what this Ram represented. The angel Gabriel informs Daniel in verse 20 that the Ram represents the kings of Media and Persia. (In Daniel's vision in ch. 7, The Medes and Persians were represented by a lopsided Bear.)
Ammianus Marcellinus writes, "On all the rulers of Persia or the Medo-Persian Empire...they bore a ram, or the head of a ram, on some part of their garments or some part of their armor. Especially when they went to battle."
A. The Long Horn: Media
Media was already a major power in the world in Daniel’s lifetime. Media had helped the Babylonian Empire conquer Assyria in 612 BC.
Media was a pretty big horn.
B. The Little Horn that became Longer Later: Persia
Persia was relatively insignificant (a little horn). Persia was a very small country lying to the south out in the middle of nowhere in a wilderness. But Cyrus was a Persian, and he was a genius. He came into power in 549 B.C. Eventually, Cyrus conquered Media - and made Persia the greatest of the two. And so when the two were combined, with Persia being the greatest, though it started smaller, he established the Medo-Persian Empire.
Daniel 8:4 "I saw the ram pushing westward and northward and southward"
With an army of 2 million men, Persia mercilessly rammed their enemies, expanding their empire. Persia went west, and took Syria, Asia Minor, and Babylonia. Persia then pushed north, and took Armenia and all the region around the Caspian Sea. Persia pushed south, and took Egypt and Ethiopia.
When Cyrus set up the Medo-Persian Empire, he was a absolute tyrant. In just ten years, from 549 to 539, Cyrus conquered the world.
2. A Goat
As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage. I saw him attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram from his power. - Daniel 8:5-7
Once again, there is no mystery here. The angel Gabriel explains in verse 21, "The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king." In ch. 7, Greece is represented by a four headed leopard with wings. Owen Bourgaize writes, "The goat is often used as a symbol of Macedonia, a founding state of the Grecian empire"
A. A Unicorn (or, more likely, a Rhino): Alexander The Great
In 336 B.C., Alexander the Great became King. By 323 B.C., he had conquered the world.
Alexander was 21 years old when he became king in 336 B.C. after his father's murder. He was educated under Aristotle. He was brilliant. He was a military genius. Maybe the greatest military genius of all of human history.