In this vision, which the Lord gave to Daniel two or three years after the dream in chapter 7, we have a description of a ram and a goat – as well as of a “little horn” that would fight and prevail against the people of God, for a certain limited time. The interpretation of this vision is provided by an angel – showing that the ram signified the Persian empire, and the goat the Greeks; and the little horn was a king named Antiochus Epiphanes, who would set himself against the Jews and their religion. From the beginning of the Jewish nation, they had been blessed all along (more or less) with prophets – that is, men who were Divinely inspired to explain God’s intentions for His people in His Providences, and who would give them some prospect of what was coming upon them. But soon after Ezra’s time, Divine prophecies ceased; and there were no more prophets until the Gospel-Day dawned. And therefore, the events of those times were here foretold by Daniel, and left upon record; so that even then, God would not leave Himself without witness, nor His people without a guide!
Daniel saw a ram with two horns, which represented the joint-kingdoms of Media and Persia. This ram was pushing all around him with his horns; and at last, he became so strong that no beast could stand before him. Despite his power and might, this ram was eventually overcome by a goat coming from the west – that is, from Greece, which lay west from Persia. This goat’s horn specifically represented the son of King Philip of Macedonia, named Alexander the Great – who essentially conquered the whole world, and then sat down and wept because there was not another world to be conquered. This goat went on with such incredible swiftness that he seemed to not even touch the ground – showing how Alexander pushed his conquests so fast, and with so much fury, that none of the kingdoms he attacked had the courage to take a stand against him.
This goat came to the ram and broke his two horns, foreshadowing how Alexander attacked and conquered the kingdoms of Media and Persia. Daniel then saw that the goat became very great and noteworthy, but the great horn that had brought all of this about was broken; for Alexander died of a drunken surfeit when he was about 32 or 33 years old. And since he left no living child behind him to enjoy that which he had endlessly labored for, all that he left was a lasting monument of the vanity of worldly pomp and power, and their insufficiency to make a man truly happy. His kingdom was divided up by his four chief captains, represented by the four horns taking the place of the one great horn.
Out of one of those four horns, Daniel saw a little horn, which became a great persecutor of the people of God; and this was the principal thing that was intended to be shown to him in this vision. This little horn stood for Antiochus Epiphanes, who became the ruler over the region of Syria. He is called a “little” horn because he was contemptible in his origins. He had a base and evil disposition, and had nothing of princely qualities in him. He had even been a hostage and a prisoner at Rome for some time, but he made his escape from there; and although he was the youngest brother, and his elder brother was still living, he obtained control of the kingdom. He grew great as he seized Egypt and invaded Persia and Armenia. But that which is especially noted here is the mischief that he did to the Jews. His actions toward them are not expressly named, but they are described in such a way that it would be easy for those who understood Scripture-language to know who were being referred to; and the Jews, having notice of this beforehand, would thus be able to prepare themselves and their children for those trying times of suffering.
Antiochus came very close to totally extirpating the holy religion which God Himself had established. But Daniel heard how the days of this atrocious tyrant were limited and numbered. One of the Lord’s saints asked how long this trouble would last. If we desire to know the mind of God, we must come to Jesus Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Although the rod of the wicked may sometimes come upon the lot of the righteous, it shall not rest there (Ps. 125:3). But it is desirable to know how these days of affliction shall last, so that we may prepare accordingly. So an answer to this question was given to Daniel. He was assured that the trouble for the Jews would indeed come to an end; it was to continue for 2,300 days and no longer. 2,300 days make roughly six years, three months, and 18 days; and that is indeed the length of the period from the defection of the people from the rule of the oppressive Syrian government, to the day when the sanctuary was purified and cleansed, and true religion was re-established among them. The Lord numbers the time of His people’s afflictions (Rev. 2:10); they shall not extend 10 seconds beyond the time that He has appointed for them to last. Although the righteous God may, for the correction of His children, allow His sanctuary to be profaned for a little while; yet He will, for His own glory, ensure that they are cleansed in due time. Jesus died to cleanse His Church – His Bride! And He will so cleanse her as to be able, at length, to present her blameless to Himself!
Daniel was charged to keep his vision private for the present; for the Persians, who were then about to overcome the Babylonians, would have been enraged against the Jews by it – because the downfall of their own kingdom was foretold by it. And this would have been a detriment to the Jews, for the edict for their release from exile was expected to come from the king of Persia. Nevertheless, Daniel was to preserve the vision safely for the generations to come, which would be alive about the time of the accomplishment of it; for to them, it would be very understandable and helpful.
Thank You, Lord, for the assurance that You will bring evil tyrants down to the dust, and so we do not need to be afraid of them! Amen.
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