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GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- PSALMS 1-50--- ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 --- AMOS --- MICAH ---NAHUM--- HABAKKUK---ZEPHANIAH --- HAGGAI ---ZECHARIAH --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-16 --- 2 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-13 -- -GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS 1-6 --- 7-10 --- 11-13 --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION


The Book of Daniel - part 2 - by Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons -London) DD

Chapter 8 The Rise of the Greek Empire and The Resulting Evil King Whose Persecution Brought About Such a Transformation of The True Remnant In Israel That The Time of God's Wrath Against Israel Came to An End (Until Israel Rejected The Messiah).

This chapter, which moves from the Aramaic of the previous six chapters to the Hebrew of chapter 1 and of the remainder of the book, both debunks the theory of a separate Medan empire in Daniel (as does 5.28) and explains at the same time why it was thought necessary. It was mainly because the horn (the small one) of chapter 7 was wrongly equated with the 'small horn' of chapter 8, both of which were identified with Antiochus Epiphanes, a king arising from the Greek empire, who savagely persecuted Israel.

But small horns are small because they are those which start to come up later, that is they come up after others that precede them, therefore there can be any number of them. It depends what beast they are on. And in fact these two are presented so differently that to identify them would be to lose all sense of reality. What such interpreters fail to acknowledge is that Antiochus Epiphanes is in fact but an example of the greater Anti-God yet to come.

At this time the Babylonian empire was weakening and new powers were arising, first the Medes, and then the Persian empire under Cyrus II who rebelled against the Medes and conquered them (550 BC). He then conquered Lydia (547 BC) and Babylon (539 BC). His son Cambyses followed him (530 BC) and conquered Egypt, followed by Darius I (522 BC) and Xerxes (also named Ahasuerus - 486 BC). Both Darius and Xerxes sought to conquer Greece which was made up of a number of nation states, the last part of their world which remained unconquered. But, after some success, they finally failed. However, the empire continued and at last seemed on the point of taking over Greece as a result of bribing the Greeks to fight each other, thus weakening them considerably, but civil war developed in the empire preventing consolidation of the position, and they failed, although the Greeks of Asia did still remain under their control.

Then Philip of Macedon united the Greeks, followed by his son Alexander the Great (336 BC) who invaded the Persian empire, and having first 'delivered' the Greeks in Asia, Alexander defeated the main Persian army in 333 BC. From there he went forward and conquered the whole of the Mediterranean world and beyond. But when he died (323 BC) his enfeebled son was unable to do anything and his empire was eventually divided up into four empires, two of which were the Seleucids, north of Palestine (Babylonia and Syria) and the Ptolemies, south of Palestine (in Egypt), the 'king of the north' and 'the king of the south'. Both empires were 'Hellenised', that is, strongly influenced by Greek culture.

The Ptolemies ruled Palestine for the next one hundred years but interfered little in their internal and religious affairs, until eventually there arose a Seleucid king name Antiochus III, 'the Great' (223-187 BC), who annexed Palestine in 198 BC, and showed the Jews great consideration. Meanwhile Hellenisation continued apace in Palestine, causing growing dissension between the Hellenised Jews with their new ideas, which at a minimum flirted with the Greek gods, and the more orthodox. Then Antiochus III, encouraged by Hannibal of Carthage who was now a refugee in Asia, advanced into Greece where he came into conflict with the might of Rome (192 BC), who drove him back from Greece and followed him into Asia, totally defeating him. Antiochus III died in 187 BC while plundering an Elamite temple for needed treasure, for he was still subject to Roman tribute. His son Seleucus IV (187-175 BC) who succeeded him began to meddle more in Jewish affairs (2 Maccabees 3).

Things, however, came to a head in the reign of his successor and brother Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) (175-163 BC) who had been a hostage in Rome. Threatened by both Rome and Egypt he determined to unify his empire round Hellenistic culture, including the worship of the Greek gods, which included himself as the manifestation of Zeus, (depicted on his coins), and sought every means of building up his treasury, plundering a number of temples in the cause. He took more seriously what others before him had claimed.

He was a strange man. He would mix among the common people and partake in their fun, and yet he could rob their temples, and treat them savagely, especially when he thought that they were being unreasonable.

Internal dissension among the Jews, largely about Hellenisation and who should be High Priest, meant that all parties looked for assistance to Antiochus, which was a great mistake, and eventually, as a result of opposition to his policies, and probably with his eye on the temple treasures, (he was an infamous robber of temples), he sacked Jerusalem and practically forbade the practise of Judaism, suspending regular sacrifices, destroying copies of the Scriptures and forbidding circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath. Moreover all without exception were to offer sacrifices to Zeus (see the Jewish histories 1 Maccabees 1.41-64; 2 Maccabees 6.1-11).

This was later followed by the erection of an altar to Zeus in the temple, on which he sacrificed a pig, an abomination to the Jews, a Desolating Horror. This latter took place in December 167 BC. While a deliberate snub to the Jews he almost certainly could not understand why there was so much fuss. No other part of his empire would have objected strongly to such moves.

This all resulted in a rebellion by the Jews under the Maccabees which enabled them through good generalship, great bravery and fortuitous circumstances to free themselves from Antiochus' yoke and restore and cleanse the temple in December 164 BC, three years after its desecration.

The vision in this chapter sees this period as pivotal for Israel. The persecutions of Antiochus were seen as the final and most furious manifestation of God's indignation against His people. The faithful remnant who resulted were seen as free from wrath and as opening the way for the coming of the Davidic Messiah, Jesus, (as depicted in chapter 7).

Commencement of Daniel's Vision.

8.1 'In the third year of the king Belshazzar, a vision appeared to me, even to me Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first.'

Daniel draws our attention to the fact that this, his second great vision, occurred two years after the first. But this was not stated to be a dream-vision, but a full vision during which he remained awake and conscious. The mention of Belshazzar is important in that it indicates the continuation at this time of the Babylonian empire. The order of the empires is thus here clearly stated, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek.

8.2 'And I saw in the vision, - now it was so that when I was seeing I was in Shushan the fortress, which is in the province of Elam - and I saw in the vision, and I was by the River Ulai.'

Daniel repeats that he saw things in vision, and informs us of his whereabouts at the time. He was in Shushan (Susa), the fortress-city, in the province of Elam. It is quite probable that he was there on a mission on behalf of Babylon, as a retired governor of Babylon now available for such special missions. This would explain why, as he saw the power of Medo-Persia, he recognised that the downfall of Babylon must come soon. On the other hand some see this as meaning that he was, as it were, transported there in the vision.

Shushan was Cyrus' capital city, capital of the Persian empire, a huge fortress of a city in the former territory of Elam, 'in the province of Elam'. In Ezra 4.9 the 'Shushancites' are differentiated from the Elamites. This was a differentiation of cityfolk from the provincials. Compare Jerusalem and Judah, often seen in apposition. At this time Elam was a province of either Media or Persia.

The 'River' Ulai flowed by Susa and was a canal, 275 metres (900 feet) wide, which joined two large rivers.

The Mighty Ram - The Medo Persian Empire.

8.3 'Then I lifted up my eyes and saw, and behold, there stood before the river one ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high, but one was higher that the other, and the higher came up last.'

'I lifted up my eyes.' We might paraphrase as 'my eyes were opened'. The fact that he was by this Medo-Persian river partly explains why he had Medo-Persia in mind and saw this vision.

'One ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high, but one was higher that the other, and the higher came up last.' He emphasises that there was one ram but that it had two horns, of which one was higher than the other, and had come up last. This is a clear description of the Medo-Persian empire (verse 20). Cyrus was the larger horn, being over the whole, but beneath him and allied to him was the kingship of the Medes, which had previously been the most powerful. His general who captured Babylon was a Mede.

We are told that the guardian spirit of the Persian kingdom was said to appear under the form of a ram with clean feet and sharp-pointed horns, and that often, when the king stood at the head of his army, he carried the head of a ram. Ezekiel used the picture of the ram, and the he-goat, to denote a form of leadership (34.17; 39.18). Although not wild beasts they were still seen as pretty fearsome.

8.4 'I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward, and no beasts could stand before him, nor was there any who could deliver out of his hand, but he did according to his will and magnified himself.'

The vision was of a successful empire builder, conquering in all directions, all-powerful and undefeatable, one who attained great power and authority. 'Pushing', that is, with his horns. 'Magnified himself' (as with Nebuchadnezzar - 4.30) is probably intended in a bad sense explaining why God brought his empire crashing down. The Persian empire was however always favourable to Israel, for its policy was to foster local religions.

The Mighty He-Goat - The Greek Empire.

8.5 'And as I was considering, behold a he-goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth and did not touch the ground. And the goat had a notable horn between its eyes.'

As we are specifically told later (verse 21) this he-goat represents Greece, to the west of the Persian empire. Greece had been well known for centuries as a source of trade, and it had provided contingents of very effective mercenaries for foreign armies, including the Egyptian and Persian armies. 'Over the face of the whole earth' means the Mediterranean 'earth', but now stretching into Europe as well. 'Did not touch the ground.' They skimmed over the ground, demonstrating the speed of their conquests. The notable horn was no doubt Alexander the Great.

8.6-7 'And he came to the ram which had two horns, which I saw standing before the river, and ran on him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close to the ram, and he was full of rage against him, and smote the ram and broke his two horns. And there was no power in the ram to stand before him. But he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was none who could deliver the ram out of his hand.'

Alexander's swift approach and savage attack defeated the Persian army which came out to oppose him, and he then overran Syria and Palestine and finally defeated the Persians once and for all at the battle of Gaugamela, near Nineveh in 331 BC. The contrast between the one horn of the he-goat (thus a visionary goat, for goats have two horns) with the two horns of the ram, emphasis the dual nature of the Medo-Persian empire. This duality is constantly emphasised as we have seen.

8.8 'And the he-goat magnified himself exceedingly, and when he was strong the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up conspicuously four towards the four winds of heaven.'

Following the death of Alexander his empire eventually divided into four. But the reason for his death is emphasised. He magnified himself exceedingly, taking godlike status. Thus at the height of his strength he was smitten down, resulting finally in the four empires.

'Towards the four winds of heaven.' The four winds of heaven always indicate the activity of God. For He is the king of heaven and acts from heaven (7.2; 4.37 compare 4.13, 26, 31). For these 'four winds of heaven' compare Jeremiah 49.36, where they represent God's fierce activity against Elam resulting in their scattering to all parts of the earth. They are winds with 'worldwide' effects, although we must remember that it means the known world of that day. Israel too had been spread in all directions around the known world by the four winds of heaven (Zechariah 2.6). Thus the idea of the four winds of heaven is of the activity of God stirring up 'the world' with mighty effects (compare 7.2 and contrast Ezekiel 37.9 where the four winds are life giving for the people of God). The idea here is that, just as Alexander had magnified himself, so they also defied God to His face.

Some see it simply as meaning in all four directions, but that is the four winds, not the four winds of heaven.

On the death of Alexander the Great his empire was in fact split between his four generals, two of whom were prominent in the Mediterranean world north and south of Palestine. Most who hold this view think that they were Lysimachus (who ruled over Thrace and Bithynia), Cassander (Macedonia and Greece), Seleucus (Syria, Babylonia, and the eastern territories), and Ptolemy (Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia Petrea). However, the exact identification of the rulers is debatable because it took about 20 years for the kingdom to be successfully divided. But there is no question about the fact that Greece split into four major parts.

Antiochus Epiphanes - The Persecutor of the Jews and Despoiler of the Temple.

8.9-10 'And out of one of them came a horn from smallness which grew exceedingly great towards the south, and towards the east and towards the beauty (the desirable). And it grew great even to the host of heaven, and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled on them.'

This horn is described in a totally different way from that in 7.8. There it is described as 'a horn, a small one', and it uproots and replaces three horns. Here it is 'a horn from smallness', that is a growing one, and it arises from one horn. Its activity is also described in a different way.