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Print Version Main Index : Commentaries : JFB Commentary : Daniel Index : Chapter 8

Daniel, Chapter 8
Chapter 7 | Chapter 9
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Cross Reference
Matthew Henry
JFB Commentary
Wesley's Notes
Geneva Study Bible
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      With this chapter the Hebrew part of the book begins and continues to be the language of the remainder; the visions relating wholly to the Jews and Jerusalem. The scene here narrows from world-wide prophecies to those affecting the one covenant-people in the five centuries between the exile and the advent. Antichrist, like Christ, has a more immediate future, as well as one more remote. The vision, the eighth chapter, begins, and that, the tenth through twelfth chapters, concludes, the account of the Antichrist of the third kingdom. Between the two visions the ninth chapter is inserted, as to Messiah and the covenant-people at the end of the half millennium (seventy weeks of years).

      1. vision--a higher kind of revelation than a dream.
      after that . . . at the first--that in Da 7:1.

      2. Shushan--Susa. Though then comparatively insignificant, it was destined to be the capital of Persia after Cyrus' time. Therefore Daniel is transported into it, as being the capital of the kingdom signified by the two-horned ram (Ne 1:1 Es 1:2-5).
      Elam--west of Persia proper, east of Babylonia, south of Media. Daniel was not present there personally, but in vision.
      Ulai--called in PLINY Euloeus; by the Greeks, Choaspes. Now Kerah, or Karasu. So in Da 10:4 he receives a vision near another river, the Hiddekel. So Ezekiel (Eze 1:1) at the Chebar. Perhaps because synagogues used to be built near rivers, as before praying they washed their hands in the water [ROSENMULLER], (Ps 137:1).

      3. two horns--The "two" ought not to be in italics, as if it were not in the original; for it is expressed by the Hebrew dual. "Horn" in the East is the symbol of power and royalty.
      one . . . higher than . . . other . . . the higher came up last--Persia, which was of little note till Cyrus' time, became then ascendant over Media, the more ancient kingdom. Darius was sixty-two years old (Da 5:31) when he began to reign; during his short reign of two years, being a weak king (Da 6:1-3), the government was almost entirely in Cyrus' hands. Hence HERODOTUS does not mention Darius; but XENOPHON does under the name of Cyaxares II. The "ram" here corresponds to the "bear" (Da 7:5), symbolizing clumsy firmness. The king of Persia wore a jewelled ram's head of gold instead of a diadem, such as are seen on the pillars at Persepolis. Also the Hebrew for "ram" springs from the same root as "Elam," or Persia [NEWTON]. The "one horn higher than the other" answers to the bear "raising itself on one side" (compare Note, see on Da 7:5).

      4. ram pushing westward--Persia conquered westward Babylon, Mesopotamia, Syria, Asia Minor.
      northward--Colchis, Armenia, Iberia, and the dwellers on the Caspian Sea.
      southward--Judea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya; also India, under Darius. He does not say eastward, for the Persians themselves came from the east (Isa 46:11).
      did according to his will--(Da 11:3,16; compare Da 5:19).

      5. he-goat--Græco-Macedonia.
      notable horn--Alexander. "Touched not . . . ground," implies the incredible swiftness of his conquests; he overran the world in less than twelve years. The he-goat answers to the leopard (Da 7:6). Caranus, the first king of Macedonia, was said to have been led by goats to Edessa, which he made the seat of his kingdom, and called Æge, that is, "goat-city."

      6. standing before the river--Ulai. It was at the "river" Granicus that Alexander fought his first victorious battle against Darius, 334 B.C.

      7. moved with choler--Alexander represented the concentrated wrath of Greece against Persia for the Persian invasions of Greece; also for the Persian cruelties to Greeks, and Darius' attempts to seduce Alexander's soldiers to treachery [NEWTON].
      stamped upon him--In 331 B.C. he defeated Darius Codomanus, and in 330 burned Persepolis and completed the conquest of Persia.
      none . . . could deliver--Not the immense hosts of Persia could save it from the small army of Alexander (Ps 33:16).

      8. when he was strong . . . great horn was broken--The empire was in full strength at Alexander's death by fever at Babylon, and seemed then least likely to fall. Yet it was then "broken." His natural brother, Philip Aridoeus, and his two sons, Alexander Ægus and Hercules, in fifteen months were murdered.
      four . . . toward . . . four winds--Seleucus, in the east, obtained Syria, Babylonia, Media, &c.; Cassander, in the west, Macedon Thessaly, Greece; PTOLEMY, in the south, Egypt, Cyprus, &c.; Lysimachus, in the north, Thrace, Cappadocia, and the north parts of Asia Minor.

      9. little horn--not to be confounded with the little horn of the fourth kingdom in Da 7:8. The little horn in Da 7:8 comes as an eleventh horn after ten preceding horns. In Da 8:9 it is not an independent fifth horn, after the four previous ones, but it arises out of one of the four existing horns. This horn is explained (Da 8:23) to be "a king of fierce countenance," &c. Antiochus Epiphanes is meant. Greece with all its refinement produces the first, that is, the Old Testament Antichrist. Antiochus had an extraordinarly love of art, which expressed itself in grand temples. He wished to substitute Zeus Olympius for Jehovah at Jerusalem. Thus first heathen civilization from below, and revealed religion from above, came into collision. Identifying himself with Jupiter, his aim was to make his own worship universal (compare Da 8:25 with Da 11:36); so mad was he in this that he was called Epimanes (maniac) instead of Epiphanes. None of the previous world rulers, Nebuchadnezzar (Da 4:31-34), Darius (Da 6:27,28), Cyrus (Ezr 1:2-4), Artaxerxes Longimanus (Ezr 7:12), had systematically opposed the Jews' religious worship. Hence the need of prophecy to prepare them for Antiochus. The struggle of the Maccabees was a fruit of Daniel's prophecy (I Maccabees 2:59). He is the forerunner of the final Antichrist, standing in the same relation to the first advent of Christ that Antichrist does to His second coming. The sins in Israel which gave rise to the Greek Antichrist were that some Jews adopted Hellenic customs (compare Da 11:30,32), erecting theaters, and regarding all religions alike, sacrificing to Jehovah, but at the same time sending money for sacrifices to Hercules. Such shall be the state of the world when ripe for Antichrist. At Da 8:9 and Da 8:23 the description passes from the literal Antiochus to features which, though partially attributed to him, hold good in their fullest sense only of his antitype, the New Testament Antichrist. The Mohammedan Antichrist may also be included; answering to the Euphratean (Turk) horsemen (Re 9:14-21), loosed "an hour, a day, a month, a year" (391 years, in the year-day theory), to scourge corrupted, idolatrous Christianity. In A.D. 637 the Saracen Moslem mosque of Omar was founded on the site of the temple, "treading under foot the sanctuary" (Da 8:11-13); and there it still remains.The first conquest of the Turks over Christians was in A.D. 1281; and 391 years after they reached their zenith of power and began to decline, Sobieski defeating them at Vienna. Mohammed II, called "the conqueror," reigned A.D. 1451-1481, in which period Constantinople fell 391 years after brings us to our own day, in which Turkey's fall is imminent.
      waxed . . . great, toward . . . south--(Da 11:25). Antiochus fought against PTOLEMY Philometer and Egypt, that is, the south.
      toward the east--He fought against those who attempted a change of government in Persia.
      toward the pleasant land--Judea, "the glorious land" (Da 11:16,41,45; compare Ps 48:2 Eze 20:6,15). Its chief pleasantness consists in its being God's chosen land (Ps 132:13 Jer 3:19). Into it Antiochus made his inroad after his return from Egypt.

      10. great, even to . . . host of heaven--explained in Da 8:24, "the mighty and holy people," that is, the Jews (Da 7:21) and their priests (compare Isa 24:21). The Levites' service is called "a warfare" (Nu 8:24,25, Margin). Great civil and religious powers are symbolized by "stars" (Mt 24:29). See I Maccabees 1:25, &c. I Maccabees 2:35, &c. I Maccabees 5:2,12,13. TREGELLES refers "stars" to those Jews whose portion from God is heavenly glory (Da 12:3), being believers in Him who is above at God's right hand: not the blinded Jews.
      cast . . . stars to the ground--So Babel, as type of Antichrist, is described (Isa 14:13,14), "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." Compare Re 12:4; II Maccabees 9:10, as to Antiochus.

      11. to the prince of the host--that is, God Himself, the Lord of Sabaoth, the hosts in heaven and earth, stars, angels, and earthly ministers. So Da 8:25, "he shall stand up against the Prince of princes"; "against the God of gods" (Da 11:36; compare Da 7:8). He not only opposes God's ancient people, but also God Himself.
      daily sacrifice--offered morning and evening (Ex 29:38,39).
      taken away--by Antiochus (I Maccabees 1:20-50).
      sanctuary . . . cast down--Though robbed of its treasures, it was not strictly cast down" by Antiochus. So that a fuller accomplishment is future. Antiochus took away the daily sacrifice for a few years; the Romans, for many ages, and "cast down" the temple; and Antichrist, in connection with Rome, the fourth kingdom, shall do so again after the Jews in their own land, still unbelieving, shall have rebuilt the temple, and restored the Mosaic ritual: God giving them up to him "by reason of transgression" (Da 8:12), that is, not owning the worship so rendered [TREGELLES]; and then the opposition of the horn to the "truth" is especially mentioned.

      12. an host--rather, "the host was given up to him," that is, the holy people were given into his hands. So in Da 8:10 "the host" is used; and again in Da 8:13, where also "give" is used as here for "giving up" for destruction (compare Da 11:6) [MAURER].
      against . . . daily sacrifice--rather (the host was given up for him to tread upon), "together with the daily sacrifice" (compare Da 8:13).
      by reason of transgression--I Maccabees 1:11-16 traces all the calamities suffered under Antiochus to the transgression of certain Jews who introduced heathen customs into Jerusalem just before. But transgression was not at the full (Da 8:23) under Antiochus; for Onias the high priest administered the laws in godliness at the time (II Maccabees 3:1). Therefore the "transgression" must refer to that of the Jews hereafter restored to Palestine in unbelief.
      the truth--the worship of the true God. Isa 59:14, "Truth is fallen in the street."
      practised, and prospered--Whatever he undertook succeeded (Da 8:4 11:28,36).

      13. that certain saint--Daniel did not know the names of these two holy angels, but saw only that one was speaking to the other.
      How long shall be the vision concerning . . . daily sacrifice--How long shall the daily sacrifice be suspended?
      transgression of desolation--literally, "making desolate," that is, Antiochus desolating profanation of the temple (Da 11:31 12:11). Compare as to Rome and the last Antichrist, Mt 24:15.

      14. unto me--The answer is to Daniel, not to the inquirer, for the latter had asked in Daniel's name; as vice versa the saint or angel (Job 15:15 Ps 89:6,7) speaks of the vision granted to Daniel, as if it had been granted to himself. For holy men are in Scripture represented as having attendant angels, with whom they are in a way identified in interests. If the conversation had been limited to the angels, it could have been of no use to us. But God conveys it to prophetical men, for our good, through the ministry of angels.
      two thousand . . . three hundred days--literally, "mornings and evenings," specified in connection with the morning and evening sacrifice. Compare Ge 1:5. Six years and a hundred ten days. This includes not only the three and a half years during which the daily sacrifice was forbidden by Antiochus [JOSEPHUS, Wars of the Jews, 1:1.1], but the whole series of events whereby it was practically interrupted: beginning with the "little horn waxing great toward the pleasant land," and "casting down some of the host" (Da 8:9,10); namely, when in 171 B.C., or the month Sivan in the year 142 of the era of the Seleucidæ, the sacrifices began to be neglected, owing to the high priest Jason introducing at Jerusalem Grecian customs and amusements, the palæstra and gymnasium; ending with the death of Antiochus, 165 B.C., or the month Shebath, in the year 148 of the Seleucid era. Compare I Maccabees 1:11-15; II Maccabees 4:9, &c. The reason for the greater minuteness of historical facts and dates, given in Daniel's prophecies, than in those of the New Testament, is that Israel, not having yet the clear views which Christians have of immortality and the heavenly inheritance, could only be directed to the earthly future: for it was on earth the looked-for Messiah was to appear, and the sum and subject of Old Testament prophecy was the kingdom of God upon earth. The minuteness of the revelation of Israel's earthly destiny was to compensate for the absence, in the Old Testament, of views of heavenly glory. Thus, in Da 9:24-27, the times of Messiah are foretold to the very year; in Da 8:14 the times of Antiochus, even to the day; and in Da 11:5-20 the Syro-Egyptian struggles in most minute detail. TREGELLES thinks the twenty-three hundred "days" answer to the week of years (Da 9:27), during which the destroying prince (Da 9:26) makes a covenant, which he breaks in the midst of the week (namely, at the end of three and a half years). The seven years exceed the twenty-three hundred days by considerably more than a half year. This period of the seven years' excess above the twenty-three hundred days may be allotted to the preparations needed for setting up the temple-worship, with Antichrist's permission to the restored Jews, according to his "covenant" with them; and the twenty-three hundred days may date from the actual setting up of the worship. But, says AUBERLEN, the more accurate to a day the dates as to Antiochus are given, the less should we say the 1290, or 1335 days (Da 12:11,12) correspond to the half week (roughly), and the twenty-three hundred to the whole. The event, however, may, in the case of Antichrist, show a correspondence between the days here given and Da 9:27, such as is not yet discernible. The term of twenty-three hundred days cannot refer twenty-three hundred years of the treading down of Christianity by Mohammedanism, as this would leave the greater portion of the time yet future; whereas, Mohammedanism is fast waning. If the twenty-three hundred days mean years, dating from Alexander's conquests, 334 B.C. to 323, we should arrive at about the close of the sixth thousand years of the world, just as the 1260 years (Da 7:25) from Justinian's decree arrive at the same terminus. The Jews' tradition represents the seventh thousand as the millennium. CUMMING remarks, 480 B.C. is the date of the waning of the Persian empire before Greece; deducting 480 from 2300, we have 1820; and in 1821, Turkey, the successor of the Greek empire, began to wane, and Greece became a separate kingdom. See on Da 12:11.
      cleansed--literally, "justified," vindicated from profanation. Judas Maccabeus celebrated the feast of dedication after the cleansing, on the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Kisleu (I Maccabees 4:51-58; II Maccabees 10:1-7; Joh 10:22). As to the antitypical dedication of the new temple, see Eze 43:1-27, &c.; also Am 9:11,12.

      16. Gabriel--meaning, "the strength of God."

      17. the time of the end--so Da 8:19 Da 11:35,36,40. The event being to take place at "the time of the end" makes it likely that the Antichrist ultimately referred to (besides the immediate reference to Antiochus) in this chapter, and the one in Da 7:8, are one and the same. The objection that the one in the seventh chapter springs out of the ten divisions of the Roman earth, the fourth kingdom, the one in the eighth chapter and the eleventh chapter from one of the four divisions of the third kingdom, Greece, is answered thus: The four divisions of the Grecian empire, having become parts of the Roman empire, shall at the end form four of its ten final divisions [TREGELLES]. However, the origin from one of the four parts of the third kingdom may be limited to Antiochus, the immediate subject of the eighth and eleventh chapter, while the ulterior typical reference of these chapters (namely, Antichrist) may belong to one of the ten Roman divisions, not necessarily one formerly of the four of the third kingdom. The event will tell. "Time of the end" may apply to the time of Antiochus. For it is the prophetic phrase for the time of fulfilment, seen always at the end of the prophetic horizon (Ge 49:1 Nu 24:14).

      19. the last end of the indignation--God's displeasure against the Jews for their sins. For their comfort they are told, the calamities about to come are not to be for ever. The "time" is limited (Da 9:27 11:27,35,36 12:7 Hab 2:3).

      21. the first king--Philip was king of Macedon before Alexander, but the latter was the first who, as a generalissimo of Greece, subdued the Persian empire.

      22. not in his power--not with the power which Alexander possessed [MAURER]. An empire united, as under Alexander, is more powerful than one divided, as under the four Diadochi.

      23. transgressors are come to the full--This does not hold good of the times of Antiochus, but of the closing times of the Christian era. Compare Lu 18:8, and 2Ti 3:1-9, as to the wickedness of the world in general just before Christ's second coming. Israel's guilt, too, shall then be at the full, when they who rejected Christ shall receive Antichrist; fulfilling Jesus words, "I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" (compare Ge 15:16 Mt 23:32 1Th 2:16).
      of fierce countenance--(De 28:50); one who will spare neither old nor young.
      understanding dark sentences--rather, "artifices" [GESENIUS]. Antiochus made himself master of Egypt and Jerusalem successively by craft (I Maccabees 1:30, &c.; II Maccabees 5:24, &c.).

      24. not by his own power--which in the beginning was "little" (Da 8:9 7:8); but by gaining over others through craft, the once little horn became "mighty" (compare Da 8:25 11:23). To be fully realized by Antichrist. He shall act by the power of Satan, who shall then be permitted to work through him in unrestricted license, such as he has not now (Re 13:2); hence the ten kingdoms shall give the beast their power (2Th 2:9-12 Re 17:13).
      prosper and practise--prosper in all that he attempts (Da 8:12).
      holy people--His persecutions are especially directed against the Jews.

      25. by peace--by pretending "peace" and friendship; in the midst of security [GESENIUS], suddenly striking his blow (compare Note, see on Jer 15:8). "A spoiler at noon-day."
      also . . . against the Prince of princes--not merely against the Jews (Da 8:11 11:36).
      broken without hand--by God's special visitation. The stone "cut out of the mountain without hands," that is, Christ is to smite the world power image on his feet (Da 2:34), that is, in its last development (compare Da 7:11). Antiochus horrible death by worms and ulcers, when on his way to Judea, intending to take vengeance for the defeat of his armies by the Maccabees, was a primary fulfilment, foreshadowing God's judgment on the last enemy of the Jewish Church.

      26. shut . . . up . . . vision--implying the vision was not to be understood for the present. In Re 22:10 it is said, "Seal not the vision, for the time is at hand." What in Daniel's time was hidden was more fully explained in Revelation, and as the time draws nearer, it will be clearer still.
      it shall be for many days--It refers to remote times (Eze 12:27).

      27. I . . . was sick--through grief at the calamities coming on my people and the Church of God (compare Ps 102:14).
      afterward I . . . did the king's business--He who holds nearest communion with heaven can best discharge the duties of common life.
      none understood it--He had heard of kings, but knew not their names; He foresaw the events, but not the time when they were to take place; thereupon he could only feel "astonished," and leave all with the omniscient God [JEROME].

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