Remarks on Daniel 8

Daniel 8  •  40 min. read  •  grade level: 8
THERE is a remarkable change which takes place at the point to which we are now arrived, and it may not be known to all readers of the Book of Daniel. The language in which the Spirit of God reveals this vision, and all that follow, is a different one from that in which He had conveyed the previous portions of the Book. From all early part of chap. ii. up to the end of chap. vii. the language was that of the Babylonian monarch—Chaldee: whereas from chap. viii. to the close it is Hebrew—the ordinary language of the Old Testament. Now this was not without purpose. And I think the clear inference that we are to gather from it is this: that what particularly concerned the Gentile monarchies was given in the language of the first great Gentile Empire. They were immediately concerned in it: and, in fact, as we know, the first vision (of the image) was seen by the Gentile king himself—Nebuchadnezzar. From that to the end of chap. vii. is in his own tongue. But now we are about to enter upon visions which specially concern the Jews—e.g., chap. viii. alludes to the sanctuary, to the holy people, to the daily sacrifice, and a number of other particulars; which would hardly have been intelligible to a Gentile, and which had—no sort of interest for him. But although they may even be little in our eyes now—though it may be only something of the past, concerning a people broken to atoms, scattered over the face of the earth, yet, nevertheless, it has a real and enduring interest in the mind of the Spirit. For the Jews are not done with yet. Far from it. The Jews have known throughout their whole history the misery of attempting to deserve the promises that were given to the fathers; and they have been allowed to work out the terrible experiment of the folly and ruin that necessarily follow man's attempting to earn what the grace of God alone can bestow. That has been, and is, the whole secret of their past and present history. They were brought out from Egypt by the power of God; but at Sinai they undertook to do all that the Lord spoke unto them. They did not say one word about what God had promised. The Lord alluded to it. But in no way did they remind Him that they were a stiffnecked people—a rebellious, unbelieving people. And when God proposed that they should obey Him, instead of acknowledging their utter incapacity, instead of throwing themselves only on His mercy, their answer betrayed, on the contrary, that boldness which always characterizes man in his natural state. “All that the Lord hath spoken,” say they, “will we do, and be obedient.” The result was that they did nothing that the Lord had said. They were disobedient at every turn, and God was obliged to deal with them as they deserved. No doubt there was divine goodness in it all; and every. step even of their failure only brought out, through God's grace, some type or shadow of the blessings that God will give them by and by, when, cured by His mercy of this sad mistake of the flesh, and having learned it in suffering and trial, and in that fearful tribulation through which they are destined yet to pass, they will then fall back upon that Blessed One whom their fathers despised and crucified, and will own that the mercy of God alone can give them any blessing, and that it is His mercy which will accomplish all that He had spoken to their fathers. It is this that begins to dawn in a particular way in the prophecies of Daniel. For although in the previous parts there had been types of it, (Daniel himself in the den of lions—or as interpreter to the king—the three Hebrew children who refused to worship idols,) all these things were types of what God will work in the latter day for Israel, in a little seed that He will reserve for Himself. But they are not types so clear, but that many Christians now would think it fanciful to consider them as such at all. We are now about to find what none ought to gainsay for a moment. Yet there are many true Christians who take these prophecies as finding their only answer in what concerns the Christian Church. They are apt to suppose that the little horn is the papacy. And in this chapter many have been disposed to find Islamism, the scourge of the eastern world, as the papacy is of the west. Whatever may be the analogies that would readily occur to any thoughtful mind, and that I by no means denied as to the little horn in chap. vii., I admit there are the same with regard to Mahommedanism in the east. But what I would desire to bring out clearly is the direct intention of the Spirit of God in these scriptures. It is all very well to find that there are seeds of evil germanating in the world, and that the horrors of the last days have their heralds—admonitory signs that arise ever and anon over the surface of the world, to show us what is coming. But in looking at the word of God, it is of importance to be divested of any desire to find the answer to prophecy in the past or present. The great thing is to go to it with an unbiassed mind, desiring nothing but to understand what God is teaching us. Therefore, whether it be about the past or the future, just as about the present, the chief requisite is, that we should be subject to God and to the word of His grace. I desire in this spirit, to endeavor, as far as the Lord enables me, to explain the meaning of this chapter.
As in chap. vii., so here, the vision was during the reign of Belshazzar; whereas the subsequent visions were after the power of Babylon was overthrown. But up to this time there was no judgment of Babylon. Notwithstanding this, the very place where the vision was seen prepares us for a certain change. It was in the east—still further east—at Shusan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam. Elam is the Hebrew name for Persia, or one of the names, at any rate. “And I saw in a vision, and was by the river of Ulai.” I only mention this to show that we have certain clues as to the bearing of the prophecy that follows. He lifts up his eyes and sees a ram—a well-known symbol, used in Persia itself, and very familiar in its monuments and public documents. “Behold there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.” Clearly the allusion is to the composite character of the Persian Empire. There were two elements in that empire, as distinguished from others—the Medish, which was the first, and the Persian, which was the younger element of the two. But the younger becomes in course of time the greater. Therefore it says that one horn was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. Although Darius the Mede takes the kingdom on the fall of Babylon, yet Cyrus the Persian is the one who acquires the supremacy in due time, and after that it is always the Persian that is more particularly mentioned, But still, even in the language of the nobles to Darius, we find them saying, “the law of the Medes and Persians.” The ram had two horns.
“I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward” —that is, the direction of the various conquests of the Persian empire— “so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand: but he did according to his will and became great.” We find as to this how entirely all profane history is obliged to bow to the word of God. But we need not go further than Scripture itself. Let any one read the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, &c., and he will see how wide and undisputed was that dominion. Even in profane history there was the term used about them— “the great king” —emphatically so about the Persian monarchy. How entirely this goes along with the prophetical account given of them here is manifest. “He did according to his will and became great.”
“And as I was considering, behold an he-goat came from the west.” Now this was the first inroad that the west had ever made upon the eastern world. And nothing seemed more improbable, because the east was the cradle of the human race. It was in the east that man was put when he was first made. It was in the east that he began his second history in the world—I mean in the world after the flood. It was from this center that the various races of men, after the Lord had confounded their language at Babel, spread themselves all over the world. It was also in the east that there was any considerable development of civilization, for hundreds of years before the west had emerged from barbarism. Yet here we find from this striking prophetical figure that when the Persian kingdom was still without a rival, not declining, but in the very plenitude of its power, there suddenly comes from quite another quarter a power represented in the vision as an he-goat—a western adversary. And this power advances with the greatest possible swiftness; as it is said here, “he touched not the ground.” No person of the least openness to conviction could question for a moment what is meant, even supposing he had not a divine interpretation of it in the chapter. There was but one ancient empire that it could be conceived to set forth—the Grecian empire—and the I great horn in its head was clearly its first chief, Alexander. “And he came to the ram that had two horns which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram and brake his two horns.” Here we have the Spirit of God giving in a few words what all history confirms. A new empire should rise after the fall of the Babylonian, symbolized by the ram, peculiar in this that it had two different peoples which composed its strength. This empire might go on in fullness of power for a certain time; but then, from another quarter, where there had been no kingdom of any note known before, comes a power of amazing swiftness in its progress, led on by a king of extraordinary courage and ambition. And this personage smites the Persian empire so completely that “there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and stamped upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.” “Moved with choler” is said more particularly about the Greek empire and Alexander. The Greeks had a ground of hatred against the Persians, which was not the case with the other empires. There was much of personal feeling in it, and this is admirably expressed by the word choler here. Why so? We do not read of that in the attacks of the Persians on the Babylonians, ferocious as they might be, or in those of the Romans upon the Greeks; but it was peculiarly true of this Greek inroad upon the Persian empire. The Persians had before invaded Greece, and thus had roused the strongest feeling against themselves. This traditional resentment descended from father to son, so that the Greeks considered themselves the natural enemies of the Persians. Such was the provocation that the Persians had given to the Greeks, who were but a petty nation at that time, and who had not at all sought to extend their bounds beyond their own native country. Now the moment was come that this blow should be returned and the Persians attacked in their own land: and the he-goat with this notable horn in its head comes, moved with choler, and smites the ram and breaks his two horns, casts him. down to the ground and stamps upon him. Nothing can be clearer, nothing more exactly descriptive as giving an idea of the relative position of these two powers to one another. If you were to read history all your life, you could not have a more vivid picture of the Persian downfall than what the Spirit of God has furnished in a few lines.
In this case it was rather less than three hundred years from the time of Daniel till these great events took place—a long enough time to show the wonder of God's perfect wisdom and the way in which He unveils the future to His people, but a comparatively short space in the history of the world; yet this is not His great object. The Spirit always looks forward to the close. He may introduce what is to be fulfilled in a comparatively brief time, but His main attention is directed to the end. of this age and not to those events that actually surround the parties of the world. God has a people that His heart is set upon: a people, it is true, who, through their own folly and want of leaning upon God, have been most feeble and failing, and who are to this day the scorn and by-word of the nations according to the word of God. But whatever might be the apparent might of Persia if not of Greece, and the importance of their controversies as filling up the history of the world, God thinks but little of them. He disposes of the records of centuries in a few words. The point to which God hastens on, might be small then in the eyes of the world, but being connected with the interests of His king and His people, He goes on to the great events connected with them in the last days. This gives the key to the verses that follow. Their importance is because of their.connection with Jewish history and because they reflect what is to take place another day.
“Therefore the he-goat waxed very great; and when he was strong, the great horn was broken.” This was exactly the case with Alexander. He was cut off while quite a young man, in the midst of his victories. “And for it came up four notable ones, toward the four winds of heaven.” There was a certain time that elapsed after the death of Alexander, when his generals were squabbling together and trying to set up a number of kingdoms; but the end of all was that there were four kingdoms formed out of the proper dominions of Greece. So that I do not question that the allusion here is to the well-known division into four kingdoms of Alexander's empire, which took place about three hundred years before Christ.
“And out of one of them came forth a little horn,” otherwise called in Scripture the King of the North. Being in the north, he pushes his dominions down “toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.” My reason for so thinking, beyond that of the direction of his conquests, (which shows where his own power lay, and the point from which he started,) will more particularly appear when we come to verse 11. What we have here is the succession of these two empires—Persia first, and then Greece. For out of one of the fragments of the Grecian empire there sprang a king that was afterward to play a most important part in connection with the land and people of the Jews. This is the great point of the chapter.
Here then we find that this little horn “waxed great even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.” By this is meant, I apprehend, those that were in a position of honor and glory before the Jewish people. Thus, stars are used, in the New Testament, as the symbol of those who are set in a place of authority in the Church; just so I conceive, the “host of heaven” here alludes to persons that held a place of authority in the Jewish polity. It is the key-note to all this part of the prophecy. It is the importance of all that affects Israel that is now coming into view. Hence you find an expression used that may seem strong— “the host of heaven.” But we must not be surprised at this. God takes the utmost interest in His people. Bear in mind that this does not imply that His people were in a good state. On the contrary, in judging of failure, we must take into consideration the position that people occupied, and for which they are responsible. If you look at Christendom you must remember that all who profess the name of Christ, whether truly or falsely—every baptized person—every person that has come under the outward recognition of the name of Christ, is in the house of God. People fancy that it is only those who are really converted that have any moral obligations. This is a total mistake. A new kind of responsibility flows from the fact of conversion and the relationships of grace.
But there is a responsibility that involves a vast accession of guilt when men are in any place of privilege. This is a very solemn truth, and God attaches importance to it. Look at the Second Epistle to Timothy. God's house is there compared to a great house among men, and in it there are vessels to dishonor as well as to honor. The former are not converted at all; they might be altogether bad people, but still they are said to be vessels in the house of God. The church, that which bears the name of Christ upon the earth, is always responsible to walk as the bride of Christ. Yet you cannot allude to such a privilege and responsibility as that without seeing the utter ruin, and failure, and declension of what bears His name. And this is the practical importance of keeping in view the position which God has assigned us. We never can judge how low we have got till we see the place in which God has put us. Supposing I have to examine my ways as a Christian, I must bear in mind that a Christian is a man whose sins are blotted out; that he is a member of the body of Christ, and loved with the same love wherewith the Father loved the Son. Some are accustomed to think that if a man is not a Jew, or a Turk, or a heathen, he must be a Christian. But when a believer hears that a Christian is one who is made a king and a priest to God, a purged worshipper having no more conscience of sin, he becomes anxious and feels that he has not one right or full idea of his own calling and responsibility. He then begins to have a different standard of judgment, to measure how he ought to feel and work, and walk for God.
The same thing applies to Israel here. Those that held this place of responsible authority in Israel, were alluded to here as the host and stars of heaven. They were put in a place of authority by God. For we must remember, in connection with Israel, that they are the people that, in the mind of God, have the first place upon the earth. They are the head, and the Gentiles the tail. This, I am aware, is a new thought to persons who are wont to look at Jews with an air of contemptuous pity, only judging of them by their present degraded condition. But in order to judge rightly we must look at things with God, we must feel with God; and God uses this strong language in regard to persons put of old in a position of outward authority among the Jews. Persons have supposed that because certain were spoken of in such exalted terms, Christians must be meant. But as God's nation, Israel held the first place in His mind in the government of the world. This is their calling, and “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” God will never give up that great thought that He has called Israel into this place, and they are judged according to it. This vision is while the power of Babylon is not yet judged. It gives you a view of what will be realized in the last days with regard to Israel, before the power that began with Babylon has been completely set aside.
This little horn waxed great, and cast down some of the hosts and stars of heaven and stamped upon them. That is, he overthrew certain Jewish rulers that were in this place of great authority; treated them with the utmost cruelty, and degraded them. “Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host,” which, I suppose, means the Lord himself. The marginal note is right in the next clause. “From him the daily sacrifice was taken away,” This at once makes it all plain, because it introduces the utmost confusion to take “by him,” to mean the little horn; and then “the place of his sanctuary,” to mean that of the prince of the host. The person that was represented by this little horn is to magnify himself even to the prince of the host. “And from him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression.” And then we go back to the little horn again. “And it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced and prospered.” In other words, the 11th verse and the first half of the 12th form a parenthesis; and then in the latter part of verse 12 we again have “it,” which designates the little horn in verse 10. The “it” takes up the horn that was to appear and deal in a cruel way with the Jewish people, and with their rulers in an aggravated form.
Then we have, as the prophet says, “one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary he cleansed.” I strongly suspect that, in the main what we have here, save the portion which is marked parenthetically, has had a partial accomplishment in the past. We shall read of a personage in chap. xi. where the characteristics alluded to here as marking this little horn, are still more minutely stated. He is called in profane history, Antiochus Epiphanes, and was a particularly bad man. If you have read the books of the Maccabees, (which, though not scripture, are in the main historically true, at least two of them,) you will know that they describe this King of Syro-Macedona, and show the dreadful feeling that he had against Israel. he attempts to force heathen worship upon them, especially that of Jupiter Olympus; and he put to death all the Jews who resisted his designs, till at last, partly by the Romans and partly by the force and courage of the Maccabees themselves, he was repressed and defeated, and the temple once more cleansed again and the Jewish worship resumed. No doubt, this was the person meant historically by the little horn. But he shows the same kind of features that will re-appear in another great leader of the last days, and I think that this will plainly appear from the last part of this chapter. For when the prophet is spoken to by the angel Gabriel, he says, “Understand, O son of man; for at the time of the end shall be the vision.
I think this denotes that what he is going to explain more particularly looks onward to that time. But it gives me the opportunity to repeat a remark that has before been made—that we are never to suppose that the explanations of a vision in Scripture are merely a repetition of what has gone before. They allude to the past, but they add fresh features not given before. This is particularly clear in the present case. And the past part of the vision (that which had already been seen by the Prophet) has been in the main accomplished; whereas the explanatory part adds fresh information that looks onward to the last days. Nevertheless, there is an explanation in measure of what has gone before. But you will observe how frequently in the explanations of the angel the last days are brought before us. He said, Behold I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation; for at the time appointed the end shall be.” There can be no question, if I am at all familiar with the prophets, what that means. Take the first of them. There I find this very expression, “the indignation.” In the end of Isa. 5, and then in chap. ix. x., this word “indignation” is repeated over and over again. The prophet shows, that, in consequence of the idolatry of Israel, and specially of their kings, God's indignation was roused against His people. He sends a chastening upon them. But whatever the first effects of the chastening might be, the evil burst out again with fresh fury, as evil always does, unless it is put away. Therefore comes in that terrible word, “For all this his anger is not turned away; but his hand is stretched out still.” his anger did not cease. Then in chap. x. 25, we find that He says that His indignation shall Cease. But wherein? There is a personage brought forward there called the Assyrian; and this Assyrian was one set forth then by Sennacherib, who was latterly the King of Assyria. He was the first who was particularly mixed up with the affairs of Israel, or rather of Judah. And what do we find? The Assyrian there is to be used as the rod of God's anger; but when God has performed His whole work upon Mount Zion, and on Jerusalem—when he has allowed, as it were, the indignation to burn out, it will cease in the destruction of the Assyrian himself, because he forgot that he was merely a rod in the hands of the Lord. He considered that he was acting by his own wisdom and might, and the Lord says that He will deal with the rod itself and destroy it. Accordingly, that very chapter shows us the indignation of the Lord ceasing in his destruction. That indignation is solely connected with His people Israel. So that this confirms what I before said—that here we are upon Jewish ground. It is not about what popes or Moslems may do, nor about the inroads of the eastern or western apostacy. It concerns Israel—the last indignation of God against Israel. But it may be asked, Why is not the fourth empire introduced here? The reason is this; that while the dominion of these empires is taken away, upon which we have the successive rise of a new empire, yet the body remains and exists. Because it is out of the third empire, and not out of the fourth, was to rise this power that plays so important a part in the last days. So that we must remember that the little horn of chap. viii. is an entirely distinct power from the little horn of chap. vii. That of chap. vii. is the last leader of the Roman Empire. It arises out of the fourth Empire, when it is divided into ten kingdoms: whereas this power rises from the third empire, and when there was a division into four parts—not into ten. Nothing can be more distinct. Although the great dominion of the world has passed away from the third to the fourth empire; and although we have in Sennacherib the representative of the third empire, yet in the last days there will also be an inheritor of the third empire, who will meddle with Israel in a particular way. As there will be a grand leader in the west, so there will be also one in the east, springing out of the Greek empire. Because we must remember, that although, being the Grecian empire, it was west in comparison with Babylon and Palestine, it was east in comparison with Rome. This little horn we shall see more of afterward.
In verse 20, the ram with two horns is explained to represent the kings of Media and Persia; and in verse 21, “the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.” Then, in verse 22, we have the breaking up of the Grecian empire; and, in verse 23, it is added, “And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.” This, I think, does not refer to Antiochus Epiphanes, but to the person that Antiochus typified. Mark the expression again, “In the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full.” “And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power.” A remarkable word, which is not said at all about the little horn of chap. vii. There, I apprehend, it was by his own power. Satan might give him power, too; but in his own person he wielded the force of the Roman empire. But in the case of this ruler, though his power will be mighty, it will not be by his own power. He depends upon the strength given him by others. He will be the instrument of foreign policy and power, not his own. “And he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice and destroy the mighty and the holy people.”
That is, we find that he is principally and expressly mentioned in connection with the Jews as a people. It is not here that you have the saints of the Most High. Where that is used it is not merely a figurative expression of the great men of the Jewish people, but here it is, as contrasted with Gentiles. It is not at all speaking about their character personally; that does not come into view in this chapter.
He shall meddle with them, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. “And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many.” That is, he will take advantage of their being in a state of ease and unprepared for his encroachments. “He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.” He will. be utterly helpless in this last struggle. In another scripture it is said, (Dan. 11:4545And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. (Daniel 11:45),) “He shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
I would desire to hint at scriptures that will make the importance of this more clear than by merely taking it as given in Dan. 8. Is there light from other scriptures as to who this personage is, and what he will do? I answer, yes. He is the same person that is spoken of in various parts of the word of God as the Assyrian, or king of the north. He is the person that will be the great foe of the Jews in the last days. The Jews at that time will be exposed to two evils. They will have an evil within in their own land—an antichrist setting himself up as God in God's temple; and they will have another evil from without—this king. He comes up as an enemy against them; and He is one also that will have great policy. It is not merely by warlike power that he is distinguished. He is not only of fierce countenance, but understands Clark sentences. He will take the place of a great teacher, which would naturally have much influence over the Jewish mind, for they have always been a people given to research and intellectual speculations of all kinds. Of late years, the mass of them have been too much occupied with money—getting to pay much attention to these things; but there have been always representatives of the intellectual class among the Jewish people. And over such the influence of this king will be immense, when they are re-established in their own land, and are becoming important again, and the objects of the dealings of God in the way of judgment. Still the indignation will not have ceased. Thus it is that these two evils will afflict the Jews. The antichrist or the willful king will take the place of the true Messiah in the land of Israel. For it is plain, that if he takes the place of Messiah, it must be in the midst of the Jewish people and in the land of the Jews; whereas this personage is one who is opposed to them as an open enemy. This I take to be the king alluded to by the other prophets as the king of the north. I would now refer to a few of these scriptures.. The Assyrian and. Antichrist are totally distinct and opposed powers. The Assyrian will be the enemy of the Antichrist: the one will be the great self-exalting man inside, and the other the leader of the enemies outside. Isa. 10 gives us the first plain intimation that we have of him in the prophets. “Wherefore it shall come to pass that when the Lord hath performed His whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the King of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.” But persons will tell me, the Assyrians are all gone; there is no such nation existing. Now, I ask, has the Lord performed His whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem.? No. Then the Assyrian is not all gone. The Lord tells me here, that when he shall have performed this whole work, He will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the King of Assyria. But the Jews are not in their land, and Jerusalem is still trodden down of the Gentiles. I know that. But does it prove that the Jews are not to be in their land again, and Jerusalem to be delivered from Gentile bondage.? When the power of God gathers the Jews back into their own land, that same Providence will bring out the representative of the Assyrian in the last days. And as the Assyrian was the first great enemy of Israel, so he is the chief one at the last. He is the one that will come up for his judgment when the Lord shall have performed His whole work upon Zion and Jerusalem. He has not performed the whole. He has performed a part of it, but His indignation still continues against Israel. This is the reason why they are not in their land. Even when they do get back, the indignation will still be burning. There will be a return of the Jews in unbelief.: and then will come that great crisis, and God will gather the scattered ones that remain and put them in their own land, and the Assyrian will be judged. There is a certain great personage typified in the Assyrian in the past, that will re-appear in the last days. He is spoken of as this king of Assyria. He will govern in the very quarter where this little horn had its power—Turkey in Asia. Whether the Sultan will be the then possessor of these dominions I do not pretend to say; but, whoever he may be, he is the person referred to by the prophets as the king of the north. He will come down towards the pleasant land and will attack the Jews; but will afterward be broken to pieces. He will come to his end and none shall help him.
Look again at Isa. 14 And what makes it remarkable is this: that in the beginning of that chapter you have the King of Babylon spoken of. (Ver. 4.) “Take up this proverb against the King of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!” The King of Babylon does not represent the Assyrian. Babylon and Assyria were two distinct powers. Babylon was only a little province when Assyria was a great empire. And when the Assyrian was in ruins, Babylon was an altogether new thing, as an imperial power.
Isa. 14 opens by showing that “the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined to it and them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them and bring them to their place,” &c.—showing the intense interest that God will give the people of the world in putting them back into their place. “And the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids.” The Gentiles, instead of being masters, will be glad to be servants in those days.” “And they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors. And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, that thou shalt take up this proverb against the King of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers.” There evidently you have what has never yet been accomplished. No person with knowledge of Scripture can suppose that ever, from the time of Babylon's supremacy, Israel had been in a position to take up such a proverb as that. The “times of the Gentiles” begin with the Chaldean power being established over the Jews. And Jerusalem is to this day trodden down by the Gentiles. One power after another has taken possession of the city. Now, in these last days spoken of here, we have the Jews putting the Gentiles under them—making them their servants. And when that time comes, and not till theu, they will take up this proverb, “How hath the oppressor ceased!” &c. And that prophetic strain looks at the King of Babylon, of whom Nebuchadnezzar was the type—the last holder of that same power that came in with Babylon. Who is that? It is the beast—the last inheritor of the power that commenced with the King of Babylon. And it is his destruction that calls forth the joy and triumph of Israel. When the King of Babylon got this power, where was the Assyrian? Gone—broken. The King of Babylon, that had been a little power, rose upon the ruins of the Assyrian. But mark in this chapter, ver. 24, “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely, as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as l have purposed, so shall it stand, that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot; then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth.” There, evidently, we have this fact, that when that day of Israel's restoration comes, not only will they triumph in the fate of the King of Babylon, but the Lord will put down the Assyrian. That cannot refer to the mere historical Assyrian of the past. He was already gone when Babylon came into power: so that it can only be a type of a power yet to come. It shows that there will be two great powers in the latter day—the beast, represented by the King of Babylon, who at that time will be the enemy of the true-hearted Jews, though he purported to be the friend of the nation, that is, of the ungodly mass; as the Assyrian, on the contrary, will be the leader of the openly adverse coalition of the Gentiles against Israel. Other Scriptures proves this. In Isa. 30 you will find the same two powers coming into view again. In verse 27 it is said, “Behold the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with his anger. . . And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of his arm. . . For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down which smote with a rod” —(evidently alluding to his being the instrument of the Lord's chastening His people, as in Isa. 10:55O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. (Isaiah 10:5);) “And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the Lord shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it. For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood: the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, shall kindle it” —showing that it is not merely a judgment of the earth, but a deeper thing. Tophet, or the pit, is ordained of old. “For the king also” is the true meaning of the next clause. This Tophet is not merely for the Assyrian, but also for the king. There are two distinct persons referred to, as we saw also in chap. xiv. “The king” will be in the land of Israel. The king will be there, under the auspices of the inheritor of the power of Babylon of that day. He will be there assuming to be the true Messiah. Tophet is prepared for him—but also for the Assyrian. They will be both consigned to Tophet. I need not refer to all the passages that refer to them; but you will find a great deal that is deeply interesting to Isaiah and other prophets as to “the king.”
But so far is it from being true that antichrist or “the king” is the one who most occupies the mind of God, that the prophets far more speak of the Assyrian. Christians are not generally aware of the large extent of prophecy. One of the most important powers in it is hardly thought of by them. If you look at the minor prophets, for instance Mic. 5, you will find an allusion to the same power; it is very plain. The chapter opens with a call. “Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us; they shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.” There is the rejection of the Messiah. Then the 2nd verse is a parenthesis which shows us who this Judge of Israel was. “But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel.” They may smite Him upon the cheek; but after all, not only is He to be the ruler, but He is the everlasting God, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Then he resumes, in connection with verse I, “Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth:” that is, till the great purpose of God comes to pass about His people. “Then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land.” Mark that— “when the Assrian shall come, and when he shall tread in our palaces:” a thing that never has been accomplished yet. When the Assyrian came of old into the land of old, it is clear there was no such thing as the Judge of Israel there. Israel had not been given up at that time, but the Assyrian of that day was only the type of the great heir of the same name and power of the last days. And then there will be the Judge of Israel on behalf of His people. The Judge that was once smitten upon the cheek will be received by His people when God's great purposes are accomplished. “This man shall be the peace when the Assyrian shall come into our land.” Then we find, verse 6, Thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders. And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord.... and the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who if he go through, both treadeth down and teareth in pieces and none can deliver.” So that it is very plain that we have the encroachment of the Assyrian and his final putting down in connection with the final deliverance of Israel.
I have endeavored to show that while Antiochus Epiphanes was the type of this Assyrian, yet that after all it was only in a very small part indeed that he meets the requirements of the prophecy, which while it makes use of him as a type, looks onward to the latter times of the indignation of God against Israel, when he comes up to receive his judgment from the hands of God. You will see how important it is to keep clearly in mind that God has these great purposes about Israel; that what man makes so much of—the episode of Papacy now or of Mohammedism passed over very slightly indeed. I acknowledge that we find a certain measure of accomplishment in both, but the Church is never allowed by God to be an earthly people. When the Jews again come into view, then we have the importance of what touches them, and this Assyrian will come down from without, at the same time that there will be “the king” within: and both will be the objects of the judgments of God. God will put them both down. And his people, purged by their trials, and looking to Jehovah Jesus, will be thus made meet for the purposes of God in mercy, and goodness, and glory, throughout the world to come.
The Lord grant that we may know His purposes about us. We have nothing to do with this world. We are strangers in it. We are entitled to read all these things in the light of heaven. It is not said that Daniel did not understand them: the others did not. But whatever was the case with them, we, by the Holy Ghost are entitled to understand these things now. And the Lord grant that our minds may be kept clear as to what God puts before us as to our own path.