Two years after Daniel’s vision of the four beasts that we described in chapter 7, he had another vision, this one of a ram and a goat. As we’ll see, it was intended to give both him and us more detail on the things to come, because the vision has a dual fulfillment. For Daniel this vision was all in the future. But for us the first fulfillment is now history, assuring the final one, which is still in our future.
Daniel’s Vision of a Ram and a Goat
In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. 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 8:1-4)
The year was 551 BC. It was 16 years before the fall of Babylon to the Medo-Persian coalition. Susa was 230 miles east of Babylon in modern day Iran and would become the capital of the Persian Empire. Both Daniel and Nehemiah lived there, as did Queen Esther. Today it’s known as Shush. An unusual white cone shaped stone there marks the traditional resting place of Daniel. In addition to the Persian Jews, many Shiite Muslims who also revere the prophet visit his grave to this day.
The King of Persia wore a ram’s head crown into battle, so the ram with two horns represents Medo-Persia. The longer horn that grew up later is the Persian component of the coalition that eventually became dominant. (The Angel Gabriel will confirm the identities of both animals for us later in the chapter.) As we’ve noted before, Media was home to the Kurds of today while Persia has become Iran. Together these two conquered an area extending from Pakistan in the East to Greece in the West and to the shores of the Black and Caspian Seas in the North and ruled it for 200 years, until about 330 BC. A Royal Road ran from Susa all the way to Sardis in Western Turkey bringing goods from the Mediterranean to the capital city.
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. The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven. (Daniel 8:5-8)
The one horned goat was the symbol of Phillip of Macedon, father to Alexander the Great. The Persians had humiliated Phillip, and Alexander built a powerful army to exact revenge. To unite the warring factions of Eastern Europe against the Persians, Alexander invented a new language, called Common Greek, so they could all speak together and settle their real and imagined grievances. Showing the Persians no mercy, he soundly defeated Darius III’s 200, 000 man army at the Battle of Guagamela in 331 BC with only 35,000 troops of his own. He was 22 years old. Seven years later he died in Babylon leaving the empire to be divided among his four generals, Cassander (Macedonia and Greece), Lysimachus (Thrace and Asia Minor), Ptolemy (Israel and Egypt) and Seleucus. (Syria, Lebanon and Jordan)
Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?”
He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be re-consecrated.” (Daniel 8:9-14)
Now we fast forward to 175 BC and a descendant of Seleucus named Antiochus IV, called another horn here, who gave himself the name Epiphanes, or Divine One. By now the Seleucid Empire had grown substantially and included Israel (the Beautiful Land) taken from descendants of Ptolemy. Antiochus Epiphanes hated the Jews and swore to wipe their religion off the face of the Earth. He almost succeeded.
Arranging to have Israel’s last legitimate High Priest, Onais III, murdered, he began selling the office to the highest bidder, a money-maker that the Romans later adopted as well. He invaded Israel and took control of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. He banned circumcision, the speaking or reading of Hebrew, and possession of the Hebrew Scriptures, burning every copy he could find. He converted the Temple into a pagan worship center, erecting a statue of Zeus (Jupiter) with his own face on it there, requiring the Jews to worship it on pain of death. He slaughtered a pig on the holy altar and ordered the priests to do likewise.
This defilement of the Temple rendered it unfit for use by the Jews. It became known as the Abomination of Desolation and triggered the Maccabean revolt, a successful 3 ½ year long guerrilla action led by Judeas Maccabeas (Judah the Hammer) to oust the forces of Antiochus from Israel and restore the Temple for worship. Because of it, Antiochus Epiphanes has become the clearest type of the anti-Christ, with the Maccabean revolt a model of the Great Tribulation. For 1150 days (2300 evening and morning sacrifices) the sanctuary lay desolate until it was consecrated again in a ceremony celebrated today as the Feast of Hanukkah.
The Interpretation of the Vision
While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”
As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.”
While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.
He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power. (Daniel 8:15-22)
The Angel Gabriel now comes to explain to Daniel that he’s going to expand the vision to show that there will be a repeat of these events on a much larger scale at the time of the end. We’ll see that the “Little Horn” of Daniel 7:8 is the end times fulfillment of the one called “Another Horn” in Daniel 8:9, the one we know as Antiochus Epiphanes. He begins with the identification of the Ram and Goat and describes the distribution of Alexander’s Kingdom to his four generals. Then he heads straight for “the time of wrath.”
“In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. (Daniel 8:23-25)
Remnants of these Empires will endure until the End of the Age when a king like Antiochus will arise, but this one won’t be acting in his own strength. In Rev 13:2we’re told that the Dragon will give him his power. And unlike Antiochus, who had suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the upstart Romans and was forced to leave Egypt in shame, this king will succeed in everything he does and will be admired by all. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” (Rev. 13:3-4)
He’ll come on the scene as a peacemaker, but will wind up with most of the world under his authority, even thinking to go to war against the armies of heaven. Like his predecessor, he’ll have an unnatural hatred for the Jews and will attempt to wipe them off the face of the Earth. He too will erect a statue in the Holy Place (Rev. 13:15), calling himself God and demanding worship (2Thes. 2:4). Yet his end will come at the hand of the One who really is the King of the whole Earth.
“The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”
I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.(Daniel 8:26-27)
Gabriel concluded his interpretation of the vision by implying that the 2300 evenings and mornings will surely come, but the vision’s ultimate fulfillment is for the End Times. This has been verified in history. The Temple’s desolation by Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled the prophecy of the evenings and mornings. This distinguishes the Macabbean revolt from the Great Tribulation, where the coming Abomination of Desolation is said to last 1260 days (Rev. 12:6), and shows that for us it’s a historical model of a future event. Jesus made reference to this when He warned the Jews living in Judea at the end of the age to flee when they see the Abomination of Desolation again (Matt. 24:15-21).
Fast forward 13 years to 538BC. Daniel is an old man by now, probably in his eighties. He’s been in Babylon for nearly 70 years and has learned from reading Jeremiah’s account of the Babylon’s conquest that Israel’s period of captivity was nearly over. God had told Jeremiah that it would last for 70 years, and then Babylon would be defeated and the Jews would be set free to rebuild their country. (Jeremiah 25:11-12)
The reason for this judgment was Israel’s insistence upon worshiping the false gods of their pagan neighbors. Its duration of 70 years came from the fact that for 490 years they had neglected to let their farmland lie fallow one year out of every seven as God had commanded in Leviticus 25:1-7. The Lord had been patient all that time but finally had sent them to Babylon to give the land the 70 years of rest that were due it. (2 Chron. 36:21)
While praying one day, confessing Israel’s sins and reminding God of His promise to restore them, (Daniel 9:1-23) Daniel was visited once again by the Angel Gabriel, who interrupted his prayer to reveal more of Israel’s future, once again expanding the visions of chapters 7 and 8 with a four verse overview of things to come.
Many believe that Daniel 9:24-27 is the most important passage of prophecy in all of Scripture. Almost every mistake I’ve run across in studying the various interpretations of End Times Prophecy can be traced back to a misunderstanding of this passage. Let’s read the whole thing to get the big picture and then take it apart verse by verse.
Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and your Holy City to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most Holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until The Anointed One the Ruler comes there will be seven weeks and sixty two weeks. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench but in times of trouble. After the sixty two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off and have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue till the end and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. In the middle of the week he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the Temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Daniel 9:24-27).
No prophecy in all of Scripture is more critical to our understanding of the end times than these four verses. A few basic clarifications are in order first, and then we’ll interpret the passage verse by verse. The Hebrew word translated weeks (or sevens) refers to a period of 7 years, like our word decade refers to a period of 10 years. It literally means “a week of years.” So 70 weeks is 70 X 7 years or 490 years. This period is divided into three parts, 7 weeks or 49 years, 62 weeks or 434 years, and 1 week or 7 years. Let’s begin.
Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and your Holy City to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most Holy (place)(Daniel 9:24).
These 6 things would be accomplished for Daniel’s people (Israel) and Daniel’s Holy City (Jerusalem) during a specified period of 490 years. I’ve inserted the word “place” after Holy at the end of the verse to clarify the fact that it refers to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until The Anointed One the Ruler comes there will be seven weeks and sixty two weeks. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench but in times of trouble.(Daniel 9:25).
Here is a clear prophecy of the timing of the First Coming. When this message was given to Daniel by the Angel Gabriel, Jerusalem had lain in ruin for nearly 70 years and the Jews were captive in Babylon. Counting forward for 62 + 7 periods of 7 years each from a future decree giving the Jews permission to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, they should expect the Messiah. That’s a total of 483 years after the decree is issued.
Here it’s important to distinguish the decree that freed the Jews from their captivity from the one that gave them permission to rebuild Jerusalem.
When he conquered Babylon in 535BC Cyrus the Persian immediately freed the Jews. It had been prophesied 150 years earlier in Isaiah 44:24-45:6 and was fulfilled in Ezra 1:1-4. But according to Nehemiah 2:1 the decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given in the first month of the 20th year of his reign by King Artaxerxes of Persia (March of 445 BC on our calendar, about 90 years later).
Exactly 483 years after that the Lord Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey to shouts of “Hosanna”, on the only day in His life He permitted His followers to proclaim Him as Israel’s King, fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy to the day! The Hebrew in Daniel 9:25 calls Him Messiah the Prince, denoting the fact that He was coming as the Anointed Son of the King and was not yet crowned King Himself.
In Luke 19:41-45, He reminded the people of the specific nature of this prophecy. As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said,“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” He held them accountable for knowing Daniel 9:24-27.
A few days later He extended that accountability to us. “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand– then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Matt 24:15) We are also required to understand Daniel 9 in reference to the Great Tribulation and 2nd Coming.
After the sixty two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off and have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue till the end and desolations have been decreed (Daniel 9:26).
First came 7 sevens (49 years) and then 62 sevens (434 years) for a total of 69 sevens or 483 years. At the end of this 2nd period their Messiah would be executed (literally destroyed in the making of a covenant) having received none of the honor, glory and blessing the Scriptures promised Him, and the people of a ruler yet to come would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. The Israelites would be scattered abroad and peace would elude the world.
We all know that Jesus was crucified, establishing the New Covenant in the process, and 38 years later the Romans put the torch to the city and the Temple destroying both. Surviving Jews were forced to flee for their lives and in the ensuing 2000 years I don’t believe a single generation has escaped involvement in a war of some kind.
And then something strange happened: The Heavenly clock stopped. 69 of the 70 weeks had passed and all that was prophesied to happen during those 483 years had come to pass but there was still one week (7 years) left. There are hints in the Old Testament that the clock had stopped several times before in Israel’s history when for one reason or another they were out of the land. And in the New Testament we’re also told that while God is dealing with the Church, time ceases to exist for Israel (Acts 15:13-18). But the clearest indication that this is the case is that the events foretold in Daniel 9:27 simply haven’t happened yet.
He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. In the middle of the week he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the Temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Daniel 9:27).
Here is the missing 70th week, but before we try to understand it let’s recall a rule of grammar that will help make our interpretation correct. The rule is this: Pronouns refer to the closest previous noun. “He” being a personal pronoun refers to the closest previous person, in this case the “ruler who will come.” So a ruler who will come from some part of the old Roman Empire will confirm a 7 year treaty with Israel that permits them to build a Temple and re-instate their Old Covenant worship system. 3 1/2 years later he will violate this treaty by setting up an abomination that causes the Temple to become desolate, putting an end to their worship. This abomination brings the wrath of God down upon him and he will be destroyed. This is the Little Horn of Daniel 7:8 and the end times fulfillment of the one called “Another Horn” in Daniel 8:9, first fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes.
The most obvious way in which we know these things haven’t happened is that the Jewish Old Covenant worship system requires a Temple and there hasn’t been one since 70 AD when the Romans destroyed it.
Some say this prophecy was fulfilled during the Roman destruction of 70 AD but most believe it’s yet future, partly because of the term Abomination that causes Desolation. As Gabriel told Daniel, in the time of wrath there would be a second, greater fulfillment of the prophecies from his vision of chapter 8. Another king would arise and repeat the things Antiochus had done, one of which would be to stand in the Temple and declare himself to be God, and demand that the people worship a statue of him on pain of death. Both Paul (2 Thes. 2:4) and John (Rev. 13:14-15) confirmed these things.
Jesus said that this event would kick off the Great Tribulation (Matt 24:15-21), and Paul said the anti-Christ would be the one to do it (2 Thes 2:4). The blasphemies of Antiochus had not been specifically repeated when the Romans destroyed the Temple, and there hasn’t been another Temple since. The similarities between this coming event and the one from history being so obvious, most scholars are persuaded that one points to the other since nothing in the intervening years fits so completely.
Soon And Very Soon
Following a devastating war in the Middle East, a new leader will soon emerge on the scene. With great personal charisma and a plan end to all wars, he will captivate and control the world. Since all true believers will have recently disappeared from Earth, he’ll have no trouble persuading most remaining inhabitants that he is the promised Messiah, the Prince of Peace. He will astound and amaze them all with feats of diplomacy and conquest, even performing the supernatural. But when he claims to be God, all hell will break loose on Earth and 3 1/2 years of the most terrible times mankind has ever known will threaten their very existence.
But before they’re all destroyed the real Prince of Peace will return and overthrow this imposter. He will set up His kingdom on earth, a kingdom that will never be conquered nor left to another. Having given His life to finish transgression, put an end to sin, atone for wickedness and bring in everlasting righteousness, and having fulfilled all Biblical vision and prophecy, He will anoint the most Holy Place and receive all the honor, glory and blessing the Scriptures promised Him. Israel will finally have her Kingdom restored and will live in peace with God in her midst, and you and I as the bride of the Christ will rule and reign with Him forever.