Daniel 8: A ram and a goat
The ram in Daniel's vision
Do you trust the Scriptures?
In previous messages based on the book of Daniel we've seen:
Daniel 7:4-6 - The real and false interpretation of prophecies. The first three beasts in Daniel's vision
Daniel 7:7-8 - The fourth beast, a new Roman Empire (the EU)
Daniel 7:17-18 - Even when the alliances "in the seed of man" are against Israel, God's prophecy and God's plan for the "holy people of the most high" remain.
Daniel 7:19-22 - The alliances "in the seed of man" (sharia + democracy)
Daniel 7:23-27 - The ten kings, the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Jesus
"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near"
There is a triple blessing in Revelation 1:3, which demands a triple activity: to read, to hear, and to take to heart. The original Greek verbs imply a little more than their English equivalents. To "read aloud" is "anaginósko", which also means "to recognise" or to "know with certainty". "Hear" comes from Greek "akúo" - from which we've got "acoustics", "acoustic" etc - which means also "listen" or "understand". "Take to heart" is "teréo" in Greek, meaning "to keep", especially when talking about keeping or observing God's commandments, God's law.
The prophecy about the last times is to be known with certainty, understood and preached as an important part of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. But there's a devil who doesn't want us to do that, and he persecutes us so that the word of God won't bear any fruit in us. Jesus said,
"The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away"
That's a powerful reason to read and understand the next chapter of Daniel. This chapter eight in Daniel is already fullfilled prophecy. But it has at least three important messages for us today:
1) It demonstrates to us what is it God showed Daniel with the visions of different animals, not only here, but in other places with other animals.
2) The things which took place in Israel more than a century BC are type of them which will happen again. The "little horn" in this chapter is not the same as in chapter seven, but he typifies the other evil ruler who will rise.
3) The accurate fulfilment of this prophecy, known to us through secular history and archaeology, is a brilliant proof of Daniel's prophetical gift. He saw things that would happen almost 400 years later, and which did happen.
These points make Daniel eight a ROOT to the interpretation of Daniel's visions - the root and the whole tree for two of the empires - and a TYPE, or image, analogy, figure of things to come. Besides, they reinforce our faith in the prophetical gift of Daniel and thereby the trustiness of the Scriptures.
Daniel eight makes use of two kinds language, literal with a historical meaning (that what was happening) and prophetical (future events) predicted through images that an angel interpreted for the prophet.
The beginning of the chapter shows us Daniel's location (time and place) and the first vision, that of a ram:
"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 it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great."
"Bishnát shalósh lemalkhút Belshatzár hamélek, khazón nirá eláy aní Daniél, akharé hanirá eláy batekhilá. Vaeré bekhazón, vaihí birotí va-aní beShushán habirá asher beElam hamediná. Vaeré bekhazón, vaaní hayíty al-ubál Ulái"
"Vaesá enáy vaeré, vehiné áyil ekhád, oméd lifné haubál, veló keranáyim, vehakeranáyim gebohót, vehaakhát geborá min hashenít. behageborá olá baakharoná"
"Raíty el ha-áyil menagéakh yáma, vetzafóna, vanégba, vekhól-khayót lo yaamdú lepanáv, veén matzíl miyadó, veasá kirtzonó vehigdíl"
When we read NIV translation, it says that Daniel "saw himself in Susa, in the vision". But let's compare the original Hebrew with its English equivalent:
Vaeré - - - - - bekhazón, - - vaihí - - - - - birotí - - - - - - va-aní - - - - beShushán habirá
and I saw - - - in vision - - it happened - when I saw - - and I (was) - in Susa's citadel
Daniel WAS in Susa literally, he didn't "saw himself in Susa in the vision". "Birotí", wich can be translated "when I saw", is the same verb in the same verbal form we find in verse 15, which has been translated there as "while I was watching". We can pefectly translate here also,
"I saw in vision; it happened while I was watching in the citadel of Susa..."
and understand that the prophet was in Susa, not that he saw "in the vision" that "it seemed to be he was in Susa". The wrong commentary of Calvin (that Daniel was not in Persia but in Babylonia) could have lead to this possibly wrong translation, because even when his reasoning is good, Susa was not a part of Persia by that time. It was a part of Babylonia, and was conquered by king Cyrus the Great one year before Babylon. It happened circa 10 years after Daniel's vision. Besides, in chapter five, Belshazzar's ignorance about who Daniel was, and who he had been under Nebuchadnezzar reign, strongly supports the idea that Daniel was living in Susa and not in Babylon by the time of this vision.
That said, to see himself at the Ulai canal could be a part of the vision, even when some biblical translations take it as literal and historical, too. The rest of the translation is a literal and perfect rendering from Hebrew to English. Daniel eight and the rest of the book retakes Hebrew.
"In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign" is the date when Daniel saw the vision, it means the year 551 BC (Belshazzar reigned between 553 and 539 BC) and Susa is one of the capitals of Persia (by that time, part of Babylonia) Elam corresponds roughly with the country we call Iran, and historically known as Persia. By that time it was a Babylonian province and should be conquered by the Persians 10 years later. Daniel saw in vision an Empire that should rise one year later and fall after 200 years. The Ulai canal was in Susa, and the Hebrew original can mean both that Daniel was there or that Daniel saw himself there in vision.
The prophetical contents of the vision begin with the ram. Probably nobody should seriously use the sheep's husband and little lambs' dad as a figure for an awesome empire. But in biblical prophecy, "horns" are a sign of power, so both the ram and the goat that comes later have the same meaning, powerful empires.
Now the ram charged toward all directions but the east. It is precisely what the Persian Empire did, conquering Media, Lydia, Babylonia and Egypt. The "horns" are the kings of Persia and Media, where the "longer one which grew later" is Persia. You can read about it in verse 20. The ram "became great" because the Persians conquered all those countries, unifying them in a huge Empire that lasted two centuries.
In the next study we'll see the enemy of the ram.
In the love of Christ, your brother,
PS. Jesus is coming soon!