Daniel describes his vision of a ram and a goat that represent the Medo-Persian and Greek Empires. He also prophetically describes Antiochus Epiphanes who acts like a historical forerunner of the end-time Antichrist.
In this chapter, Daniel describes further revelation he received about the coming Medo-Persian and then Greek Empires, and about a deceitful king who would later arise out of the Greek Empire. This king was Antiochus Epiphanes, who acted like a kind of Old Testament forerunner to the end-time Antichrist. Although this vision was primarily fulfilled in history, understanding it is helpful for furthering one's understanding of the vision of four empires in Daniel 7, and of John's visions of the beast of Revelation.

Daniel received this vision in the third year of King Belshazzar, which was 551 BC. Belshazzar reigned as regent over Babylon from 553 to 543 BC, during the reign of his father King Nabonidus (556 to 539 BC). Nabonidus spent most of his reign at Tema in western Arabia, leaving his son as regent. Belshazzar is portrayed in Daniel as the son of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 5:18), but Daniel probably referred to his father as Nebuchadnezzar as a matter of respectful flattery, since Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest Babylonian king. In the vision, Daniel sees himself transported to Susa, the capital city of the province of Elam.
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Daniel sees a ram with two long horns. One horn is longer and comes up after the shorter one (v3). In Daniel and Revelation, animals or beasts represent empires, and horns represent kings. This ram represents the Medo-Persian Empire, and its two horns represent the kings of Media and Persia (v20). The shorter horn that came up first represents the king of Media, who at that time was King Astyages (585 - 550 BC). The longer horn represents Cyrus the Great of Persia (559 - 530 BC). He conquered Media in 550 BC, creating the Persian Empire, also known as the Achaemenid Empire. The portrayal of the kings of Media and Persia as two horns of the same ram implies that the Bible sees the Persian empire as a continuation of the Median Empire, hence the term Medo-Persian Empire. The Medo-Persian empire that is a ram here in chapter 8 was portrayed as a bear in the vision of chapter 7. Here in verse 4, Daniel sees the ram butting westward, northward and southward, portraying Cyrus' conquests of Babylonia, Media, Lydia, and later his son's conqest of Egypt. He says that no beast (empire or kingdom) was able to stand before it. It did as it pleased and acted arrogantly (v4). At that point in time, the Persian Empire was the largest empire the world had ever seen.

Daniel then sees a male goat coming from the west and gliding over the land without touching the ground. It has a conspicuous horn between its eyes (v5). The goat is the king of Greece (implying Empire of Greece), and the horn is its first king (v21). This horn was Alexander the Great. The Greek Empire was portrayed as a winged leopard in chapter 7. Daniel sees the goat hurl itself at the ram and trample it, a portrayal of Alexander's invasion of Persia in 334 BC. The goat acts even more arrogantly than the ram had done. By the time of his death in 323 BC, Alexander had conquered the whole of the Persian Empire and even more.
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At the height of his power, Daniel sees the prominent horn (Alexander) broken off and four conspicuous horns come up in its place, extending toward the four winds (north, east, south & west) (v8). After Alexander's death, the Greek Empire was divided between his four generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. Seleucus ruled over the largest part, which became known as the Seleucid Empire.
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In verse 9, Daniel says that from one of these came a small horn that grew to be very big toward the south, the east and the beautiful land (Israel). This was Antiochus IV, who ruled from 175 to 164 BC. He liked to be known as Antiochus Epiphanes, meaning 'God manifest'. His opponents referred to him as Antiochus Epimanes, meaning 'the Madman'. Daniel received further prophetic revelation about him as recorded in Daniel 11:21-35. Here in verse 10, Daniel sees him reaching up to the army of heaven and causing some of the stars (angels) to fall. This seems to imply his involvement in the occult realm. In verse 24, Daniel says his power will be great, but not by his strength alone. It is as though he is empowered by Satan. In verse 11, he acts arrogantly towards the Prince of the army, which may refer to God, or possibly to the Archangel Michael (see Daniel 12:1). The daily sacrifice was removed and the sanctuary (the temple) was thrown down. The army was given over, along with the daily sacrifice, and truth was hurled to the ground (v12). This was fulfilled in 168 BC. Previous Seleucid kings had been tolerant of Jewish culture and religion, but Antiochus wanted to hellenize Judea, and opposed Judaism. He deposed Jason, the Jewish high priest, and replaced him with Menelaus. In 168 BC, while Antiochus was campaigning against Egypt, Jason gathered an army and overthrew Menelaus. Antiochus returned in a rage, sacked Jerusalem, slaughtered 40,000 Jews, and restored Menelaus as high priest. He then setup an idol of Zeus in the Jewish temple, and ordered the Jews to sacrifice pigs to it. In Daniel 11:31, this statue of Zeus is called 'the abomination that causes desolation'. It was revealed to Daniel that this desecration of the sanctuary would last for 2,300 evenings and mornings, which may mean 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices, or 1,150 days. This desecration of the temple was ended by the Maccabean Revolt, as recorded in the books of I Maccabees and II Maccabees (part of the Apocrypha). This was a rebellion of conservative Jews against the Seleucid Empire and the Hellenized Jews. A conservative Jew called Mattathias the Hasmonean killed a priest who was offering the sacrifice to the idol. He then fled to the desert with his sons. After his death in 166 BC, his son Judah Maccabee (Maccabee means 'the hammerer') led a successful guerrilla type war against the Hellenized Jews and the Seleucids. Antiochus sent an army to squash the revolt, but it turned back after Antiochus died in 164 BC. Judah Maccabee removed all the Greek idols, and the temple was cleansed and rededicated. Today, Jews remember and celebrate the rededication of the temple in the festival of Hannukah. Hasmoneans continued to rule Judah from that point up until 37 BC when the Romans took over.

Verses 23-25 say of Antiochus that he will be rash and deceitful, cause terrible destruction, and destroy powerful people, including the holy ones (true believers). He will succeed through deceit, and destroy many who are unaware of his schemes. He will oppose the Prince of princes, but eventually be broken apart, but not by human agency (implying by God).

Although Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled these prophecies historically, he becomes a picture of the end-time Antichrist. The end-time Antichrist is revealed in Daniel 9:26-27 and in Daniel 11:36-45 as well as in other prophetic passages in the Bible. He will again desecrate the Jewish temple and set up an abomination that causes desolation. In Matthew 24:15, Jesus spoke about the abomination that causes desolation as a future end-time event, even though it had already been fulfilled through Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC.
Places: Medo-Persian Empire, Greek Empire, Jerusalem, Temple Mount
Symbols: Beasts as empires, Horns as kings
Tags: Nabonidus, Medo-Persian Empire, Greek Empire, Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, Seleucid Empire, Antiochus Epiphanes as a prototype of the Antichrist, Maccabean Revolt, Abomination that causes desolation, Temple descrated
Daniel Has a Vision of a Goat and a Ram
8 In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after the one that had appeared to me previously.
2 In this vision I saw myself in Susa the citadel, which is located in the province of Elam. In the vision I saw myself at the Ulai Canal.
3 I looked up and saw a ram with two horns standing at the canal. Its two horns were both long, but one was longer than the other. The longer one was coming up after the shorter one.
4 I saw that the ram was butting westward, northward, and southward. No animal was able to stand before it, and there was none who could deliver from its power. It did as it pleased and acted arrogantly.
5 While I was contemplating all this, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of all the land without touching the ground. This goat had a conspicuous horn between its eyes.
6 It came to the two-horned ram that I had seen standing beside the canal and rushed against it with raging strength.
7 I saw it approaching the ram. It went into a fit of rage against the ram and struck it and broke off its two horns. The ram had no ability to resist it. The goat hurled the ram to the ground and trampled it. No one could deliver the ram from its power.
8 The male goat acted even more arrogantly. But no sooner had the large horn become strong than it was broken, and there arose four conspicuous horns in its place, extending toward the four winds of the sky.
9 From one of them came a small horn. But it grew to be very big, toward the south and the east and toward the beautiful land.
10 It grew so big it reached the army of heaven, and it brought about the fall of some of the army and some of the stars to the ground, where it trampled them.
11 It also acted arrogantly against the Prince of the army, from whom the daily sacrifice was removed and whose sanctuary was thrown down.
12 The army was given over, along with the daily sacrifice, in the course of his sinful rebellion. It hurled truth to the ground and enjoyed success.
13 Then I heard a holy one speaking. Another holy one said to the one who was speaking, “To what period of time does the vision pertain – this vision concerning the daily sacrifice and the destructive act of rebellion and the giving over of both the sanctuary and army to be trampled?”
14 He said to me, “To 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be put right again.”

An Angel Interprets Daniel’s Vision

15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision, I sought to understand it. Now one who appeared to be a man was standing before me.
16 Then I heard a human voice coming from between the banks of the Ulai. It called out, “Gabriel, enable this person to understand the vision.” 17 So he approached the place where I was standing. As he came, I felt terrified and fell flat on the ground. Then he said to me, “Understand, son of man, that the vision pertains to the time of the end.”
18 As he spoke with me, I fell into a trance with my face to the ground. But he touched me and stood me upright.
19 Then he said, “I am going to inform you about what will happen in the latter time of wrath, for the vision pertains to the appointed time of the end.
20 The ram that you saw with the two horns stands for the kings of Media and Persia.
21 The male goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king.
22 The horn that was broken and in whose place there arose four others stands for four kingdoms that will arise from his nation, though they will not have his strength.
23 Toward the end of their rule, when rebellious acts are complete, a rash and deceitful king will arise.
24 His power will be great, but it will not be by his strength alone. He will cause terrible destruction. He will be successful in what he undertakes. He will destroy powerful people and the people of the holy ones.
25 By his treachery he will succeed through deceit. He will have an arrogant attitude, and he will destroy many who are unaware of his schemes. He will rise up against the Prince of princes, yet he will be broken apart – but not by human agency.
26 The vision of the evenings and mornings that was told to you is correct. But you should seal up the vision, for it refers to a time many days from now.”
27 I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up and again carried out the king’s business. But I was astonished at the vision, and there was no one to explain it.