Notes on Daniel

Chapter Eight

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 8 January 2010; Revised 30 October 2015

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Scripture: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). The text for this chapter may be found here. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet.

Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the article. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here. Citations for Talmud tractates are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); found at Halakhah.com.

Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic and Jewish nature of Scripture I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament) and Besekh (New Testament), as well as the terms Yeshua (Jesus) and Messiah (Christ).

Vocabulary: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB."

Please see the Introduction for background information on the book of Daniel, interpretative approaches and historical context.

Introduction- Chapter Eight marks another important transition in Daniel’s narrative. Chapters two through seven portray Gentile domination while Jews were in captivity, but beginning with this chapter the prophecies foretell a time when Jews have returned to their own land. The prophecies would provide encouragement to the Jews that there would be an end to their captivity.

While chapters seven and nine, especially, contain much that is obscure, even after explanation by Gabriel, this chapter is remarkably clear. It is so clear that some commentators who have difficulty accepting the predictive nature of Old Testament prophecy want to date this material in the Maccabean years. The same rationale is given for dating the second half of Isaiah very late because of the mention of Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1. However, prophecy ex eventu [after the event] has to be demonstrated rather than simply assumed. Unfortunately, those who choose to impugn the veracity of Scripture do not seem to be bothered by a lack of evidence.

Chapter Eight also returns the narrative to Hebrew for the rest of the book.

1- Third year: Two years after his first vision, Daniel has his second, still during the reign of Belshazzar.

2- Susa: Daniel gives his location as Susa rather than the city of Babylon. Susa was one of the three royal cities of the great Achaemenids, the ruling house of ancient Persia (Sevener). Three biblical books mention Susa (Nehemiah 1:1; Daniel 8:2; Esther - 17 times). Susa was located in the province of Elam. Some scholars doubt that Susa was part of the Babylonian Empire at the time of Belshazzar. However, Jeremiah (25:9, 25; 49:34-38) and Ezekiel (32:11-12, 24) both include Elam as part of Nebuchadnezzar's empire expansion. Susa was certainly a part of the Persian Empire under Cyrus and became the summer residence for the Persian kings (Clarke).

Commentators are divided are whether Daniel saw himself in Susa as part of the vision (Morris, Keil and Miller) or was physically there (Clarke and Sevener 86). Archer notes the two positions but does not express a preference. Josephus (X, 11.7) reported Daniel’s physical presence in Susa, and there is no reason to dispute the Jewish point of view. There is no indication whether this was a personal or professional visit.

Canal: To the south and east of Susa flowed two rivers, Choaspes and Coprates. These were connected by a large artificial canal called the Ulaius. The canal was approximately nine hundred feet wide (Sevener 87). It was by this canal that Daniel saw the vision recorded in this chapter. Josephus adds a bit of drama to his account saying, when he was in Susa, the metropolis of Persia, and went out into the field with his companions, there was, on the sudden, a motion and concussion of the earth, and that he was left alone by himself, his friends fleeing away from him.”

3- Looked seems to suggest a waking vision. He was standing near the canal, perhaps admiring the engineering feat, when he saw a ram suddenly appear. One moment the ram was not there, the next moment he was. Daniel adds to the physical description by noting that the horns were of unequal length. In fact, a ram's head with two horns, one higher than the other, appears as such in different parts of the ruins of Persepolis (Clarke).

A ram and goat often symbolize kings, princes and chiefs in the Tanakh (Isa 14:9; Jer 50:8; Ezek 34:17; 39:18; Zech 10:3). That the ram in Daniel’s vision symbolizes the Medo-Persian empire is asserted in v. 20 and universally agreed by commentators. The unequal length of the horns alludes to the lesser status of the Medes in the combined empire. According to Ammianus Marcellinus (a fourth century Roman historian), when the Persian king stood at the head of his army, he bore, instead of the diadem, the head of a ram (Keil).

4- The ram, symbolizing the Medo-Persian empire, conducted its empire expansion in a specific sequential pattern. Today Persia is the country of Iran. Persia began by attacking west and conquered Babylon (Iraq), Syria, Asia Minor (Turkey) and Macedonia (northern Greece). Next Persia attacked north and conquered the empires of Armenia, Colchis (western Georgia), and Iberia (eastern Georgia). Then Persian invaded south and conquered the kingdoms of Israel, Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya.

By 480 B.C. Persia ruled over territories roughly encompassing today's Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Bulgaria, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, parts of Greece, parts of Central Asia, Libya, and northern parts of Arabia. The Persian Empire became the largest empire to that date in ancient history in both size of the population and territory.

5- Daniel was fascinated by the action in the vision of the ram butting first one direction and then another. Suddenly, his attention was captured by a goat coming from the west. Europe, of course, lies westward of Asia. This goat defies modern taxonomy since goats do not have a single horn between the eyes. Some might regard this animal as a unicorn. The only animal known to have one horn is the rhinoceros.

Verse 21 explains the goat as Greece, although Sevener identifies the goat more specifically as Philip of Macedon. The large horn, the symbol of ruling authority, was Philip's son, Alexander the Great. Morris points out that "the fact that the ram is Medo-Persia and the goat is Greece provides further indication that the bear and leopard in chapter 7 were not these two kingdoms, as many take them to be, but rather two great kingdoms of the end-times."

The whole earth reflects the inhabited earth as the people of this time understood it. Without touching the ground represents the speed of Alexander's attack.

6- Mighty wrath points out that Alexander's primary motivation for attacking the Persians was revenge. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains:

"Having thus secured his rear, Alexander collected his army at Pella to cross the Hellespont, that he might exact the vengeance of Greece on Persia for indignities suffered at the hands of Xerxes, who "by his strength through his riches" had stirred, up "all against the realm of Grecia" (Dan 11:2, KJV). Steeped as he was in the romance of the Iliad, Alexander, when he came to the site of Troy, honored Achilles, whom he claimed as his ancestor, with games and sacrifices. This may have been the outflow of his own romantic nature, but there was also wise policy in it; the Greeks were more readily reconciled to the loss of their freedom when it was yielded up to one who revived in his own person the heroes of the Iliad. It may be noted how exactly the point of Alexander's invasion is indicated in Daniel's prophecy (Dan 8:5). From Troy he advanced southward, and encountered the Persian forces at the Granicus. While in the conflict Alexander exhibited all the reckless bravery of a Homeric hero. He at the same time showed the skill of a consummate general. The Persian army was dispersed with great slaughter. Before proceeding farther into Persia, by rapid marches and vigorously pressed sieges, he completed the conquest of Asia Minor. Here, too, he showed his knowledge of the sensitiveness of Asiatic peoples to omens, by visiting Gordium, and cutting the knot on which, according to legend, depended the empire of Asia."

7- Struck the ram and shattered his two horns: The groundwork for Alexander's success in the third century B.C. was laid by the weakening of the Persian Empire through civil uprising and the Greek city states regaining their independence with the aid of Athens, both in Macedonia and Asia Minor. In six years Alexander destroyed the Persian Empire. The decisive battle took place on the plains of Issus. The ISBE summarizes the event:

"What he had done in symbol he had to make a reality; he had to settle the question of supremacy in Asia by the sword. He learned that Darius had collected an immense army and was coming to meet him. Although the Persian host was estimated at a half-million men, Alexander hastened to encounter it. Rapidity of motion, as symbolized in Daniel by the "he-goat" that "came from the west .... and touched not the ground" (Dan 8:5), was Alexander's great characteristic. The two armies met in the relatively narrow plain of Issus, where the Persians lost, to a great extent, the advantage of their numbers; they were defeated with tremendous slaughter, Darius himself setting the example of flight. Alexander only pursued the defeated army far enough to break it up utterly." (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915), Alexander the Great)

The Apocrypha provides this summary of Alexander's success:

After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated Darius, king of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. (He had previously become king of Greece.) He fought many battles, conquered strongholds, and put to death the kings of the earth. He advanced to the ends of the earth, and plundered many nations." (1 Macc 1:1-3a)

Hurled him to the ground: Alexander's unrelenting warfare and "take no prisoners" attitude was due in part because he learned that Darius had tried to draw off his captains with bribes and had induced some of his friends to assassinate him. Alexander would listen to no proposals of peace. Darius was murdered by his own subjects, but Alexander destroyed the family of Darius and overturned the whole monarchy (Clarke).

8- Magnified himself refers to Alexander's self-deification in the conquered provinces. He believed the Greek god Hercules was his ancestor. Maccabees summarizes by saying, "When the earth became quiet before him, he was exalted, and his heart was lifted up. He gathered a very strong army and ruled over countries, nations, and princes, and they became tributary to him." (1 Macc 1:3b-4).

Of historical interest is that Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, relates that after conquering Tyre and the ancient cities of the Philistines, Alexander's army approached Jerusalem, but he refused to allow the Phoenicians and Chaldeans in his army to plunder the city. His army was, in fact, surprised when the Jewish high priest led a peaceful procession out to greet and welcome him, but Alexander claimed that he had had a vision of just such a welcome.

“And when he [Alexander] went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest's direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the Book of Daniel was showed him wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired. And when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XI, 8:5)

Many Christian scholars regard the story in Josephus as legend (Tarn & Griffith 210), but there has to be a reason why Alexander did not sack the city. His treatment of the Jews appears to be quite favorable. The Talmud records that on at least three occasions Africans, Egyptians, and Ishmaelites and Ketureans came for lawsuits before Alexander seeking damages for alleged losses suffered when Abraham sent the sons of his concubines away from Isaac, when Israel left Egypt under Moses and when Israel conquered the land under Joshua (Sanhedrin 91a). In all cases Alexander ruled in favor of the Jews. I would point out that there is no contrary historical evidence to rebut these Jewish stories.

The large horn was broken refers to the death of Alexander in 323 B.C. at the age of thirty-three. He had conquered and ruled an empire of 1.5 million square miles. An anecdote from the Greek historian Plutarch, widely misquoted, explains much of Alexander's outlook. “Alexander wept when he heard Anaxarchus [Greek philosopher] discourse about an infinite number of worlds, and when his friends inquired what ailed him, "Is it not worthy of tears," he said, "that, when the number of worlds is infinite, we have not yet become lords of a single one?” ("On the Tranquility of the Mind," Moralia, Book VI, 33:4). He died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II after suffering from a fever for 10 days. The cause of death is mysterious, but malaria and typhoid are the obvious candidates for the symptoms.

The four horns symbolizes division of the Hellenistic Empire after the death of Alexander. After his death, Philip, his half-brother; Alexander II, his legitimate son; and Hercules, his illegitimate son, maintained leadership of the kingdom for a time but all three were eventually murdered. Years of civil war ensued between Alexander's generals, called the Wars of Diadochi ("successors"). By 305 B.C. four generals had carved up the empire: Cassander had control of Macedonia and Greece, Lysimachus ruled Asia Minor and Thrace; Seleucus ruled over Syria, Babylon and Persia; and Ptolemy ruled over Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia and Israel. These divisions did not remain static due to continued strife between the generals and their heirs and descendants. The four winds of heaven (see note on 7:2) likely refers to points on the compass and summarizes the division of Alexander's empire. Cassander had the western parts, Lysimachus had the northern regions, Ptolemy possessed the southern countries and Seleucus had the eastern provinces (Clarke).

9- Out of the one of them refers to royal descent. The prophetic timeline leaps about 170 years from the death of Alexander. The small (Heb. mitstseirah, little, insignificant or young) horn represents Antiochus IV (called Epiphanes), the eighth ruler of the Seleucid Empire (175–164 B.C.), who began as an insignificant ruler, but developed into a significant power and tyrant over the Jews. Morris takes the small horn as symbolic of the end-time Antichrist, as in 7:8, but the small horn in this chapter is not the same as the small horn in 7:8. Not only are the words for "little/small" different in the two narratives, but also they are in different historical contexts.

The growth of the horn toward the south refers to the exploits of Antiochus against the Ptolemaic Empire and east to Persia, Parthia and Armenia. The Beautiful Land (also at 11:16, 41) is a reference to Israel, a land that in former years flowed with milk and honey. God certainly thought the land he gave the Jewish people to be beautiful as it says in Jeremiah, "How I would set you among My sons and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful inheritance of the nations!" (Jer 3:19) Psalm 48:2 likewise boasts, "Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King."

Miller sees in the attribute of beauty a symbol of a spiritual reality, the focus of God on Israel as the center of his operations. Although the Beautiful Land would be included in the southern campaign, the vision draws attention to the oppression of the holy land and its people. I would note that Miller, Keil and Archer (as other commentators), erroneously refer to the Land as Palestine. See my article The Land is Not Palestine.

10- The host of heaven usually refers either to the angelic armies of the Lord (1 King 22:19; Ps 80:14; cf. Rev 19:14) or the celestial bodies of interstellar space (Gen 2:1; Isa 31:5). The phrase can also refer more specifically to the celestial bodies as objects of pagan worship and astrological divination (Deut 4:19; 2 Kgs 17:16; Jer 7:18; 8:2). There could also be a sense of nature aiding Antiochus as it says in Judges 5:20, "The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera." Other Scriptures give poetic expression to nature being a vehicle of God's judgment (Isa 34:3-4; 64:1-4; Micah 1:2-4), this time on his people.

Morris interprets the "host of heaven" as angels, so therefore the small horn cannot be Antiochus. Morris apparently fails to recognize that the Antichrist is just a man and has no more power over celestial beings than Antiochus. It makes no sense that the vision would be explained as involving Persia and Greece of Daniel's time and then fast forward thousands of years into the future to foretell the end-time Antichrist. There is a simpler solution. A related phrase "stars of heaven" is used as a comparison for population growth of Jacob's descendants (Ex 32:13; Deut 10:22) and this probably is the sense intended here. Clarke identifies the "host of heaven" more specifically as the Jewish hierarchy of priests and Levites.

So, the Jews are those whom Antiochus trampled. The verb "trampled" could be a reference to the beginning of oppression in 170 B.C. with the assassination of the pious high priest Onias III and the installation of the Hellenistic high priest Menelaus. With cooperative leadership in Israel Antiochus invaded Egypt seeking to overthrow Ptolemaic rule and expand the Seleucid empire. He met with considerable success, but afterwards was forced to withdraw under threat of Roman reprisal. During this period when Antiochus was distracted with war in Egypt a large group of Orthodox Jews in Israel led by Jason, the brother of Onias III, sought to remove Menelaus and end Hellenistic policies. The Orthodox group attacked the city of Jerusalem and forced Menelaus and his supporters to flee. Jason assumed the high priesthood, but his tenure was short-lived. Antiochus learned of the rebellion and in a great rage attacked Jerusalem in 169 B.C. (1 Macc 1:20-28). This was the first of two invasions Antiochus made against Israel.

The "trampling" increased even worse with the second invasion two years after the first (1 Macc 1:29; 2 Macc 5:11-26). After a devastating attack that left tens of thousands of Jews dead, Antiochus ruthlessly imposed Hellenism on the Jewish population with many onerous regulations and sought to destroy the Jewish religion. He forbade circumcision, observing the Sabbath and festivals, keeping kosher, and Torah-prescribed sacrificial offerings. He prescribed the building of shrines for idols and sacrificing swine and other unclean animals. Failure to comply meant execution, but many chose death rather than defile themselves by not keeping the covenant. (See 1 Maccabees 1:41-64)

11- Magnified itself probably refers to Antiochus adopting the honorific Epiphanes ("the Illustrious" or "Manifest" [God]). The Jews called him Antiochus Epimanes (the madman) (Sevener 102). Commander, Heb. sar, means prince, chief, or captain (see 1:7). It has a wide application in Scripture depending on the context. While the NASB chose "commander" to translate sar, most other versions translate with “prince.” If the host refers to the Jews (which most commentators agree on), then the sar could be the high priest Jason, who had set himself in opposition to Antiochus. Archer, Keil and Miller interpret sar here as a reference to the God of heaven, the King of Israel and the Prince of Princes, as he is called in verse 25. Antiochus considered himself equal with God, if not superior. Regular sacrifice: The Torah mandated two sacrifices each day, morning and evening (Ex 29:38-43). The regular sacrifice included meal and drink offerings along with the burnt offerings of animals. In addition, the morning and evening services included gatherings of the people for prayer. Antiochus stopped the daily sacrifices, i.e., all temple worship, and desecrated the sanctuary of the Jewish God, so Antiochus felt his greatness equaled or surpassed this local deity.

12- On account of transgression, refers to the rebellion of many Jews led by the renegade high priest Menelaus to forsake God's Torah and embrace Hellenism. Given over indicates the sovereign choice of God to allow Antiochus to succeed in his vile plans and oppress the pious Jews who opposed Hellenism. Subjugation by a pagan power has always been God's response to spiritual apostasy among his people. Josephus illustrates the Jewish divide and transgression with this account:

“Now as the former high priest, Jesus [Jason], raised a sedition against Menelaus, who was ordained after him, the multitude were divided between them both. And the sons of Tobias took the part of Menelaus, but the greater part of the people assisted Jason; and by that means Menelaus and the sons of Tobias were distressed, and retired to Antiochus, and informed him that they were desirous to leave the laws of their country, and the Jewish way of living according to them, and to follow the king's laws, and the Grecian way of living. Wherefore they desired his permission to build them a Gymnasium at Jerusalem. And when he had given them leave, they also hid the circumcision of their genitals, that even when they were naked they might appear to be Greeks. Accordingly, they left off all the customs that belonged to their own country, and imitated the practices of the other nations.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XII, 5:1)

This event is identified as one of the causes of the Maccabean revolt (1 Macc 1:11–15).

That the horn would fling truth to the ground refers to the systematic effort of Antiochus to impose Hellenistic culture and pagan religion on the total population of Jews and essentially destroy the Jewish religion. Hellenism among conquered peoples took many forms and many Jews did embrace the new culture. Following are examples of the changes they made:

· They spoke Greek in lieu of Hebrew.

· They took Greek names.

· They accepted the Greek ideal of universalism and tolerated religions around them.

· They adopted Greek customs, such as wearing Greek hats.

· They enjoyed Greek athletics, which involved nudity.

· They tolerated mixed marriage.

· They dropped circumcision and observance of the Sabbath. (Tarn & Griffith, 213, 224-225)

13- Two unnamed heavenly beings appeared in the vision carrying on a conversation. One of the angels asked the question that no doubt Daniel wanted to ask. The same query also occurs in 12:6. How long? The servants of God want to know.

Habakkuk asked, "How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear?" (Hab 1:2)

Zechariah asked, O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?" (Zech 1:12)

Even Yeshua asked, "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? (Matt 17:17)

And, then, we hear plaintiff cry of the Revelation martyrs, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Rev 6:10)

The angelic question summarizes the offenses of Antiochus: removal of the daily offerings, the horror of erecting an idol in the sanctuary and offering swine's flesh, allowing pagan Gentiles to defile the most holy place in the temple and trampling or oppressing the chosen people.

14- The time period of 2,300 evenings and mornings is very precise language. While Clarke interprets the expression as a symbolic number, Archer, Morris, Keil and Miller favor the view that "evening and morning" means a full day as first used in Genesis 1:5. Thus, 2,300 evenings and mornings would be 2,300 days or 6 years, three and a half months (based on the Gregorian calendar). (It is not seven years as Morris implies.) This interpretation would work if the beginning date was the assassination of Onias III in 170 B.C. Sevener (115f) argues that 2,300 evenings and mornings equal 1,150 days because the question asked by the angel has to do with the duration of the prohibition of the daily sacrifice, which began in 165 B.C. The Torah mandated two sacrifices each day, morning and evening (Ex 29:38-43). Since the Hebrews reckoned the calendar by the lunar cycle of 30 days, Sevener says that 1,150 days would be "three years and a few days." According to the Maccabean history Antiochus defiled the temple on 15 Kislev 168 B.C. and the temple was restored on 25 Kislev 165 B.C. Actually, Sevener's count is off considerably more than a few days, since 1,150 days would be 3 years and 70 days, not 3 years and 10 days.

The Maccabean history gives the timeline as follows: Antiochus began to reign in the "137th year of the kingdom of the Greeks" [175 B.C.] (1 Macc 1:10) and he went up against Israel in the "one hundred and forty-third year" [170 B.C.] to ensure Jewish submission (1 Macc 1:20). Two years later [145th year] he returned in force to punish the Jews for rebellion (1 Macc 1:29). Then, "on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-fifth year, [168 B.C.] they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering" (1 Macc 1:54). Then three years later, "on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year," [165 B.C.] the Maccabees rededicated the temple (1 Macc 4:52)

I believe that 2,300 days is the intended meaning. First, saying it means 1,150 days reduces it to a symbol, which the text does not suggest. The specific time period of 2,300 evenings and mornings is a straight forward answer to a straight forward question and likely refers to the time from the death of Onias in 170 B.C. to the death of Antiochus and the celebration of the first Hanukkah in 164 B.C. (1 Macc 6:16; 2 Macc 9:28; 10:1-9). Second, the text does not remark on the ending of the daily sacrifice (mentioned in 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11), only the giving of it over to the power of the horn. From the Hebraic point of view the prescribed daily sacrifice ended when Onias was killed and the Hellenistic high priest Menelaus, who was not even an Aaronite (2 Macc 4:25), took control. He was not qualified to be high priest and his rebellion against God made any sacrifice he offered unclean, even if it was the right animal. Third, the daily sacrifice does not mean just the sacrifice of the lambs, but also the drink, bread and incense offerings that accompanied the animal offering. These were impossible under Menelaus as the Maccabean history reports:

"After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred and forty-third year [170 B.C.]. He came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures which he found." (1Macc 1:20-23)

Restored: Judas Maccabeus (Heb. Yehudah HaMakabi, Judah the Hammer) was a Cohen (priest) and the third son of the priest Mattathias (1 Macc 2:4) and descendant of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron (1 Macc 2:54). Judas assembled courageous Jews and his revolt against the Seleucid Empire (167 BC-160 BC), first in guerilla warfare and later in open battle, led them to victory over the Syrians. He is acclaimed as one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history alongside Joshua, Gideon and David. On the 25th of Kislev of 165 B.C. they rededicated the Temple. The story of the dedication (Heb. Hanukkah) is retold in 1 Maccabees 4:36-59. A parallel summary is found in 2 Maccabees:

"When Maccabeus and his companions, under the Lord's leadership, had recovered the temple and the city, they destroyed the altars erected by the Gentiles in the marketplace and the sacred enclosures. After purifying the temple, they made a new altar. Then, with fire struck from flint, they offered sacrifice for the first time in two years, burned incense, and lighted lamps. They also set out the showbread. When they had done this, they prostrated themselves and begged the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes, and that if they should sin at any time, he might chastise them with moderation and not hand them over to blasphemous and barbarous Gentiles. On the anniversary of the day on which the temple had been profaned by the Gentiles, that is, the twenty-fifth of the same month Chislev, the purification of the temple took place. The Jews celebrated joyfully for eight days … By public edict and decree they prescribed that the whole Jewish nation should celebrate these days every year. Such was the end of Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes." (2Macc 10:1-9 RSV)

The Talmud records a special miracle in conjunction with the first Hanukkah celebration.

"For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev [commence] the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient for one day's lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit [the lamp] therewith for eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel and thanksgiving." (Shabbat 21b)

In the Besekh The celebration is called the Feast of Dedication (see John 10:22). Among Jews the festival is also called the Feast of Lights. During this season Jewish families use a 9-candle menorah and for eight days beginning Kislev 25 (Nov-Dec) light candles each night and offer a blessing to God for this great victory.

15- One who looked like a man offers a simple but telling description of the angel. "Man" is Heb. geber, which is derived from the verb gabar, meaning strong or mighty (BDB 149). Angels figure prominently in Scripture as ministering spirits (Mark 1:13; Heb 1:14). The revelation of God’s Torah had been given with the assistance of angels (Deut 33:2; Acts 7:53), and angels figure prominently in the book of Daniel. Angels are far different from the Hollywood depiction and popular assumptions. Angels typically appear as men (cf. Gen 18:2; 32:24; Judg 13:10), but are not glorified humans that earn status in heaven by doing good works on earth. All individual angels mentioned in Scripture have masculine names or descriptions, contrary to popular art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female. In addition, only a special group of heavenly beings are mentioned in Scripture as having wings (Ex 37:9; Isa 6:2; Ezek 10:5; Rev 4:8), and these beings may not be angels at all.

16- Gabriel (Heb. Gavri'el, "strong man of God") is introduced and directed to explain the vision to Daniel. He is mentioned four times in Scripture, twice in Daniel (8:16; 9:21) and twice in Luke (1:19; 1:26). Gabriel is included in a list of seven archangels in 1 Enoch 9:1, which also include Uri’el, Rafa’el, Ragu’el, Micha’el, Saraka’el, and Remi’el. 1 Enoch 20:1-7 assigns special functions to each angel. Gabriel was thought to have charge over serpents, Paradise and cherubim. In 1 Enoch 40:9 he is one of four angels who stand before God and he presides over all that is powerful. Revelation 8:2 also mentions "seven angels who stand before God," which may include Gabriel and Michael.

17- Son of man (Heb. ben Adam) is used in direct address in the Tanakh only to Daniel and Ezekiel. The honorific underscores Daniel's mortality and weakness exhibited in his terror. Daniel's fright may have been caused by Gabriel's glorious shining, or his sudden appearance or perhaps even his size. The text is not clear on this point. Time of the end is a relative expression occurring four times in Daniel (8:17; 11:35, 40; 12:4). Interpretation depends on its historical context. We may ask, "what "end?" In this case it probably refers to the decline of the Greek empire, because in 170 B.C. the Romans were already engaged in its third war against the Macedonians and in 167 B.C. plundered and divided Macedonia into four parts. In 149 B.C. the Romans laid siege to Carthage in north Africa. (See the timeline of Roman conquest in the 2nd century B.C..) The suggestion that the expression foreshadows the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation (Morris and Sevener) reflects an interpretation of Daniel through the lens of the book of Revelation. Antiochus would certainly qualify as a type of the Antichrist. However, while "time of the end" may have an eschatological meaning in 11:35 and 12:4, the context of this chapter suggests a more immediate frame of reference consistent with the history of the Persians and Greeks. (See my article The Coming Antichrist.)

18- Deep sleep could refer to death or coma-like death as happened to John (Rev 1:17). Meeting Gabriel was a truly overwhelming experience. Gabriel touched Daniel and healed him.

19- Final period of the indignation and appointed time of the end appear to be a parallelism and point back to the mention of "time of the end" in verse 17. The word indignation (Heb. za'am) normally points to God's wrath in Scripture (Isa 10:25; 26:20). The objects of God's wrath in this case were Antiochus and the Hellenistic Jews (Miller). Appointed alludes to God's sovereign control and orchestration of people and events to accomplish His will. Daniel is being assured that these events will come to pass at the specified time in God's prophetic calendar.

20-22 Gabriel explains the vision given in verses 3-7 in a straightforward manner. (See my notes there.) The principal players are the Persians and Greeks. First king refers to Alexander who was the first king of a unified Greece. Broken horn: Perhaps Yeshua had Alexander in mind when he said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) Not with his power points to the reality that no Greek leader was ever able to equal Alexander's charisma or control of the world.

23- The transgressors refer to the Jewish Hellenists who had forsaken the truth of God's Word for the pleasures of this world.

24- Destroy: In 168 B.C. Antiochus invaded the Land in reprisal because of the rebellion of Jason against Menelaus. Because of the resistance, the city of Jerusalem was invaded and captured, and tens of thousands of Jewish residents were slaughtered. After the military defeat Antiochus continued his war in his Hellenizing policy. The book of Maccabees records his contemptible actions following the invasion and slaughter.

"[1] Not long after this, the king sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God, [2] and also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and call it the temple of Olympian Zeus, and to call the one in Gerizim the temple of Zeus the Friend of Strangers, as did the people who dwelt in that place. [3] Harsh and utterly grievous was the onslaught of evil. [4] For the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with harlots and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit. [5] The altar was covered with abominable offerings which were forbidden by the laws. [6] A man could neither keep the sabbath, nor observe the feasts of his fathers, nor so much as confess himself to be a Jew. [7] On the monthly celebration of the king's birthday, the Jews were taken, under bitter constraint, to partake of the sacrifices; and when the feast of Dionysus came, they were compelled to walk in the procession in honor of Dionysus, wearing wreaths of ivy. [8] At the suggestion of Ptolemy a decree was issued to the neighboring Greek cities, that they should adopt the same policy toward the Jews and make them partake of the sacrifices, [9] and should slay those who did not choose to change over to Greek customs. One could see, therefore, the misery that had come upon them. [10] For example, two women were brought in for having circumcised their children. These women they publicly paraded about the city, with their babies hung at their breasts, then hurled them down headlong from the wall. [11] Others who had assembled in the caves near by, to observe the seventh day secretly, were betrayed and were all burned together, because their piety kept them from defending themselves, in view of their regard for that most holy day." (2Macc 6:1-11)

25- Prince of princes: Heb. sar, which occurs slightly over 400 times in the Tanakh, can mean chieftain, chief, ruler, official, captain or prince (BDB 978). See note on 1:7. On earth among Israelites the Prince of Princes might be considered to be the king or even the high priest. In Daniel sar is also used of the adversarial patron-angel of Persia (Dan 10:13) and Michael, the patron-angel of Israel (Dan 10:21). In this context it is more likely an allusion to God and parallel to the superlative title "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (1 Tim 6:15; Rev 17:14; 19:16). Broken without human agency means that Antiochus will die of natural causes rather than a battle wound. In 165 B.C. Antiochus had fled north after his army was defeated by the Maccabees and went to Persia to sack the city of Persepolis. However, he was again defeated. He then learned of another defeat of his forces by the Maccabean army and 2 Maccabees retells in dramatic fashion his demise.

"[4] Transported with rage, he conceived the idea of turning upon the Jews the injury done by those who had put him to flight; so he ordered his charioteer to drive without stopping until he completed the journey. But the judgment of heaven rode with him! For in his arrogance he said, "When I get there I will make Jerusalem a cemetery of Jews." [5] But the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him an incurable and unseen blow. As soon as he ceased speaking he was seized with a pain in his bowels for which there was no relief and with sharp internal tortures [6] and that very justly, for he had tortured the bowels of others with many and strange inflictions. [7] Yet he did not in any way stop his insolence, but was even more filled with arrogance, breathing fire in his rage against the Jews, and giving orders to hasten the journey. And so it came about that he fell out of his chariot as it was rushing along, and the fall was so hard as to torture every limb of his body. [8] Thus he who had just been thinking that he could command the waves of the sea, in his superhuman arrogance, and imagining that he could weigh the high mountains in a balance, was brought down to earth and carried in a litter, making the power of God manifest to all. [9] And so the ungodly man's body swarmed with worms, and while he was still living in anguish and pain, his flesh rotted away, and because of his stench the whole army felt revulsion at his decay. [10] Because of his intolerable stench no one was able to carry the man who a little while before had thought that he could touch the stars of heaven. [11] Then it was that, broken in spirit, he began to lose much of his arrogance and to come to his senses under the scourge of God, for he was tortured with pain every moment. … [28] So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the more intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains in a strange land." (2Macc 9:4-11, 28)

26- True affirms that the explanation of Gabriel of the vision's meaning is factual and God will be faithful to bring it to pass. The claim of truth would also underscore the straightforward interpretation of 2,300 evenings and mornings. Keep…secret (Heb. satam) lit. means to "stop up, shut up, keep closed (BDB 711). The NLT expresses the verb as "do not tell anyone about them yet." However, God could not have meant for Daniel to hide the vision or its interpretation from God's people or he sinned by writing it in his book. HCSB/NIV renders the verb as "seal up," which has a different nuance. Daniel is being told to preserve the prophecy to insure its availability to future generations of God's people. The prophecy is not intended for pagan nations, but to reassure the saints of the sovereign control of God over history. Many days points to the future beyond Daniel's death, some 400 years, but still during ancient times. The prophecy cannot be true unless it was actually delivered to Daniel and written many years before the events took place. (Miller)

27- Exhausted (Heb. hayah, to fall out, become, BDB 224) and sick (Heb. chalah, to be weak, BDB 317). The vision experience left Daniel emotionally and physically drained. He may well have been sick at the thought of more suffering ahead for God's people. King's business suggests that Daniel did have some government duties under Belshazzar, most likely assigned by Belshazzar's father (Miller). None to explain it ("none understood it" KJV, supported by Keil) suggests that Daniel related the experience to his closest Jewish friends and after discussion he and they still found the Gabriel's interpretation a mystery. The limited information would only raise more questions. We have the benefit of completed history to guide understanding.

Works Cited

Citation

Source

1 Macc
2 Macc

1 & 2 Maccabees, The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version , Bruce M. Metzger, ed. Oxford University Press, 1977.

Archer

Gleason L. Archer, Daniel, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 7. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD-ROM Version 2.6, 1989-1998)

BDB The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.

Clarke

Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (1826). Ralph Earle, ed. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1967.

Morris

Henry M. Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible (KJV). World Publishing Co., 1995.

Josephus

Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. Online.

Keil

C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Ezekiel-Daniel. Commentary on the Old Testament (1866-1891), Vol. 9. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.

Miller

Stephen R. Miller, Daniel. The New American Commentary, Vol. 18. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994.

Sevener

Harold A. Sevener, God’s Man in Babylon. Chosen People Ministries, 1994.

Tarn & Griffith

Tarn, Sir William and Griffith, G.T. Hellenistic Civilization. 3rd Edition. London: Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1952.

TWOT

R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press, 1980.

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