Summary: Daniel’s vision prepared his people - and Christians too - of coming evil rulers leading to the Antichrist who would be ultimately destroyed.
DANIEL 8 - THE VISION OF THE RAM AND THE GOAT
This vision took place two years after the vision of the four beasts. It enlarges on the understanding of the future already given, but with a different emphasis. In the first place the language in which it is written changes from Aramaic to Hebrew. This is significant since the theme of the vision focuses particularly on God’s covenant people while the previous vision had more to do with the world empires.
The other emphasis is on the end of the age, drawing upon the characters who lived two thousand or more years before as forerunners of those who would figure in the end days. There are many instances in Scripture of this "prophetic leap". At the beginning of his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah’s prophecy (61:1,2), "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor ..." But he stopped reading at the words "to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour", saying, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." But the prophecy does not end there : Isaiah continues where Jesus stopped, "and the day of vengeance of our God." Why was this? Isaiah had brought together the first and second comings of the Messiah in one verse but we know through history that almost 2,000 years have passed since his first coming. This same principle applies to Daniel’s prophecy. He tells us first of:
This animal had two high horns, the second of which was slower in growing but was higher than the first. Daniel was not left in any doubt as what the ram meant in historical terms: he was told that the horns represented "the kings of Media and Persia" (21). Natural history programmes on television have made us familiar with wild animals, especially the male species, vigorously defending their territory. This ram, however, did not stop at that - he butted his way west and north and south. The Persians had come from the east, and as the prophet indicated, conquered huge areas, right into Europe and Africa. It seemed that nothing could stop its growth, but like all worldly empires, its rise gave way to its fall, symbolized in the vision by:
This animal came from the west with a great rush, its feet not touching the ground. This was a remarkable foretelling of coming events. The goat is often used as a symbol of Macedonia, a founding state of the Grecian empire. The goat had a prominent horn between its eyes, which was identified by the interpreter of Daniel’s vision as the first king of Greece (21). Alexander the Great, as he became known, won victory after victory over the Persians, attacking at breathtaking speed in a brilliant series of battles from 334 BC on. The empire of the ram seemed completely helpless. The vision recounts how its horns were broken off, and the body of the ram was trampled on the ground. It recalls the words of Scripture, "Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword" (Mat 26:52).
Alexander went on as far as India in the conquest of the world of his day. The vision tells us that "the goat became very great, but that at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up" (8). History records that Alexander, worn out by his efforts, contracted a fever which he did not have the strength to shake off, and died at the early age of 32. There is a parable here of the frailty of the human being. It is possible to over-extend ourselves, even in the best of causes. We can put everything we have got into our job, our service, then something snaps - like that great horn in the vision - and it is all over. It points to the uncertainty of this earthly life and pilgrimage. We cannot take a day for granted.
Alexander’s empire was divided up between four of his generals. The spotlight of the vision now turns on one of these kingdoms, as we hear of:
THE RISE OF THE LITTLE HORN
It is described as little because from the beginning of its career there was nothing great or noble about it, although it became very powerful indeed (9). The policies of this personality were described by Daniel’s interpreter as deceit and cunning. He is spoken of as a far more dangerous enemy of God’s purposes than ever was Alexander because his target was the people of God. The Jews, not for the first or the last time, were to be involved in a life-and-death struggle for survival as a people who worshipped God as had been revealed to them.