Daniel 8: A ram and a goat
The four horns
What do you think about divisions?
On December 19, 2016, the Time magazine had in its cover a picture of the then elected President Mr. Donald Trump, with the subtitle, "Donald Trump, President of the Divided States of America". Being one of America's foundational pillars, and America's motto for many years, "E pluribus unum" - latin for "Out of many, one" - that subtitle of the Time's cover was a sad thing to say, especially for a President who hadn't begun his period yet and was inheriting almost 40 years of "identity politics", the umbrella term for all people who think that the evils of America come only from heterosexual white male Christians. There is a deep division in the USA, but it is not certainly caused by Mr. Trump.
The Word of God says,
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
These powerful words calling to unity, written by king Solomon circa 930 years BC, have their counterpart in Solomon's most known descendant, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Son of God, hours before his agony and death, was praying for His disciples this way:
"Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one"
Will the ugly demon which is trying to tear America apart succeed?
It is our desire and prayer that it doesn't happen. The Scripture we are dealing with today is about the Empire of Alexander the Great, maybe the greatest of European Antiquity together with Rome, and how it was divided and finally fell.
Daniel 8:8 says,
"The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven."
The original Hebrew sounds like this:
"Utzefír haizím higdíl ad-meód ukhotzmó nishberá hakéren hagedolá, vetaaléna khazót arbá takhtéha, learbá rukhót hashamáyim"
The NIV has a perfect rendering for this verse. Daniel's vision's meaning is revealed by the angel in verse 22, "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".
"At the height of its power", Alexander's Empire included Lybia and Egypt, Albania, Bulgaria, part of Rumania, Macedonia and Greece, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Irak, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan and most of Pakistan - up to the Indus river. It also included parts of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and India. It was most of the known world on those days, including Europe, Africa and Asia, and fulfiling the prophecy of Daniel 2:39, that it would "rule over the whole earth". The "goat" had become very great indeed. And having conquered all of these territories in only eleven years, Alexander fulfiled also the prophecy in Daniel 7:6, of a winged leopard, one of the fastest animals on earth, representing one of the fastest conquerors in the history of mankind. As a matter of comparison, it took almost thirty years to Persia to get its maximum extent, and circa 100 years to the Roman Empire.
Alexander, tutored by Aristotle, the most influential Greek philosopher of all times, was not only a capable military leader, but a politician as well. At the same time of conquering new countries, he fought a cultural battle also, mixing the Greek language and culture in the Persian civilization in the effort to strengthen his Empire. He succeeded at some extent, leaving a certain Greek influence that even today remains in the Greco-Buddhist art we find in Afghanistan and India. But in the long run, his efforts should fail after his death, occurred 323 BC.
Having no sons, Alexander's succession was no clear at all. And after the brief period of unified Empire, those ancient Greeks went back to their regular way of life, different states fighting one another for supremacy. It marks the beginning of the so called "Hellenistic" and last period of Ancient Greece, that was decaying until it was totally conquered by Rome.
Alexander's successors, known as the "diadochi" - Greek for successors - became entangled in vicious wars, and finally, four divisions of Alexander's Empire were born and pretty stable between 305 and 297 BC.
The European part was divided between Macedonia and Thrace. The first, under Cassander's rule (305-297 BC) included most of the European part, except the one called "Thrace" which is the European part of Turkey nowadays. Thrace, under Lysimachus rule (306-281 BC) included the European Thrace plus a half of Asia Minor. That kingdom would become "Pergamon".
The African part became the Ptolemaic Egypt (all Greek kings of Egypt were namned "Ptolemy") with their first ruler being Ptolemy I Soter (323-285 BC) and the rest of Alexander's Empire, from Turkey to India including Syria and Israel, became the Seleucid Empire, with its kings namned "Seleucus" or "Antiochus". The first seleucid king was Seleucus I Nicator (311-280 BC)
Those kingdoms were the four horns Daniel saw, coming from the goat after the first "large horn was broken off". Two of them, the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires, were fighting each other for years, for the control of Syria and Israel, in what the secular history calls the "Syrian Wars" - six in total - that lasted more than a century and were prophesied in Daniel eleven in an astonishingly accurate way.
The divisions in Alexander's Empire weakened every kingdom, and eventually made them easy targets of Rome. They fell successively in 168 BC (Macedonia) 129 BC (Pergamon, former Thrace) 63 BC (the Seleucid Empire, that had become only Syria) and 30 BC (Egypt)
Our Lord Jesus Christ said that a divided house can't stand. Divisions have hurt kingdoms, countries, churches, whole religions, families, political parties - you name it. Nevertheless, this division and the wars that weakened the Seleucid Empire were a blesssing for the Jewish people. From this Empire came one of the worst enemies of Israel, a genocidal maniac who is prophesied in this chapter, and it was against him the Maccabees rebelled and became victorious. This historical event is commemorated every year by the Jews in the Hanukkah holiday. Keep reading!
In the love of Christ, your brother
PS. Jesus is coming soon!