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Notes on the Book of Daniel: Chapter 8, Part 1

Posted by lehunt on November 28, 2015

Chapter 8:

Daniel Vision of Ram and Goat // Larry Hunt Bible Commentary

ZURICH BIBLE VISION OF THE RAM AND GOAT

If this is a waking vision, I suppose it is a sort of dream-like trance because Daniel says he sees “in the vision” that he is by the river Ulai.  In other words, he might not actually have been there.

v. 3: I have no doubt that this is the Medo-Persian Empire since Gabriel says so (v. 20).  I also believe that interpreting the figure in this way requires that one consider Media and Persia as a single kingdom as far as the book of Daniel is concerned.  Thus, one should reject interpretations that see the second and third kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and in Daniel’s dream of the previous chapter as being Media and Persia, two distinct and successive kingdoms.  Other evidence that Media and Persia are considered a single kingdom in Daniel is in verses like 6:8 which talks about “the law of the Medes and Persians,” as if they were one kingdom.  Even outside the book of Daniel, the ancient writers seemed to treat these kingdoms as a unit.  Plutarch, in his Life of Theseus, calls The Battle of Marathon part of the “Median” war, as if the term were interchangeable with “Persian.”  In his Life of Pericles, he says, “Thargelia was a great beauty, extremely charming, and at the same time sagacious; she had numerous suitors among the Greeks, and brought all who had to do with her over to the Persian interest, and by their means, being men of the greatest power and station, sowed the seeds of the Median faction up and down in several cities.”

v. 5: I have no doubt that this is Greece/Macedonia since Gabriel testifies to this fact (v. 21).  I believe the fact that the goat does not touch the earth is an indicator of the speed of Alexander’s conquests.

v. 8: Concerning the phrase, “toward the four winds of heaven,” see two things: 7:6 (wings) and 7:2 (winds).

v. 11: Since I believe that the statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (2:31-45) and the four beasts of Daniel’s previous vision (7:2-27) symbolize the same things, I will use them interchangeably as a means of interpreting this dream.  For the following reasons, I believe that the period described here in v. 11 corresponds to that of the third beast in Daniel’s previous vision and that of the third section (bronze) of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue:

1) It succeeds the Medo-Persian Empire directly as the third kingdom does in the other two dreams.

2) The four horns of the goat can easily be paralleled with the four wings and heads of the leopard.

3) I believe that interpreting the single figure of the goat as Greece/Macedonia means that one should consider the rule of Alexander, as well as the four kingdoms into which his empire broke, as a single kingdom so far as the book of Daniel is concerned.  Thus, I believe one should reject interpretations that see the third kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s dream of the previous chapter as being that of Alexander and the fourth kingdom as being, collectively, that ruled over by the four generals who succeeded Alexander.  Along these same lines, I don’t believe that the one horn (v.9) which grew out of the other four should be interpreted as the fourth kingdom referred to in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s dream of the previous chapter.  The one horn grew out of the other four, and so should be interpreted as being Greek, not a separate kingdom. (In the other two confirmable transitions of world power, Babylon to Medo-Persia and Medo-Persia to Greece, the supplanting kingdom has been an outside force, not an internal one as this horn is.) Besides this, the fourth kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s dream of the previous chapter is remarkable for its brutal power, and yet v. 22 here says that these four Greek kingdoms that succeed Alexander’s united empire did not have the power of the empire under Alexander.  If one were to accept that this horn of v. 9 should be the fourth kingdom of Nebuchandnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s dream of the previous chapter, then one would have to believe that the Seleucid Greek kingdom under Antiochus Epiphanes (which is clearly what the horn represents) was more powerful than the united empire under Alexander had been (just as the fourth kingdom was more powerful than the third kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s dream of the previous chapter), and this would be a ridiculous conclusion to make.  It would make sense, however, to say that the kingdom of Rome was more powerful than the united empire of Alexander.

Nevertheless, consider the following arguments, which, while they do not convince me that this horn of v. 9 is the fourth beast, do deserve a hearing.

The nature of the horn of v. 9 is peculiar.  It starts small and then becomes great, and it oppresses the people of God.   Both of these qualities mark the horn with eyes in the fourth beast.

Also the fact that it concerns “the time of the end” could imply that this is the fourth (or last) beast.

Note too that this goat (unlike the ram) is said to “be destroyed but not by human power” just as the fourth kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is destroyed by a rock not made with hands.

However, I believe these similarities are the result of Daniel’s drawing upon a common set of symbols.  Horns represent kings; small things that grow large (like the rock which strikes the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue) represent people or kingdoms that seem weak at first but grow strong. Besides, there are significant differences in the little horns of each dream.  Consider, for instance, the number of the other horns in both dreams and the relationship of the little horns to these other horns.  As for “the time of the end,” that may mean anything.  The dream here in chapter 8 seems to imply that life will continue after this “end” (hence, the rededication of the sanctuary) so this is not the end, i.e., it is not Judgment Day.  It refers to the abominations of Antiochus Epiphanes and the end of his reign of tyranny over the Jews.  See notes on 11:21 and following.

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