Studies on Daniel 8

Daniel 8  •  21 min. read  •  grade level: 8
I reserve some further remarks on chapter 7 till we come to the end of chapter 9 and I proceed to chapter 8. In it the Spirit of God takes two empires, namely, the second and third of the four beasts previously seen, to give a more detailed history of them.
" In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me " (v. 1). " And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan, in the palace, which is in the province of Elam " (v. 2). This land of Elam, or Persia, was the body of the second beast. The bear of chapter 7 is now the ram. " The ram which thou sawest, having two horns, are the kings of Media and Persia " (v. 2o). These two kingdoms were united into one. In chapter 7 this kingdom is told to " arise and devour much flesh," whilst here the ram is said " to push westward, and northward, and southward." The he-goat of verse 5, who attacks the ram, is the empire of the Greeks, which commenced under Alexander. This " notable horn," having united the Greeks, led them into Asia against the empire of the Persians. In three years he overthrew it: it crumbled into nothing before his energy, which earned for him, among men, the name of Great. We know from history, that he died, whilst yet young, of a fever, the consequence of his excesses.
" When he [the he-goat] was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven " (v. 8). Alexander traversed the greater part of Asia, and penetrated as far as India, proving his capacity not only as a general, but as the founder of a solid empire. But God laid His hand upon him, and " for it came up four notable ones." The same truth is presented, chapter 7: 6, under the figure of a leopard with four wings and four heads. After Alexander's death his kingdom was divided into four distinct monarchies, with two of which we have principally to do, because two of them came into connection with the Jews; just as lately the Turks and Egyptians were at war about this same Holy Land.
We must remember, if we would understand this prophecy, that even the geography of Scripture is always considered according to the position of the Holy Land. If we have a king of the south, it is a king to the south of Palestine; for Palestine is the center of all God's thoughts as to the government of this world. Jerusalem is His chosen city. " For the Lord hath chosen Zion," it is said, " He hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest forever," Psa. 132:13, 1413For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. 14This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. (Psalm 132:13‑14). From one of the kingdoms designed under the four horns (it is not said from which, but distinctively from one) comes a little horn, whose acts form the important part of this chapter.
" And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land " (v. 9), viz., the Holy Land. In considering Scripture, it is needful to place oneself, so to speak, in the point of view from which God looks. He says, in Deut. 10:1212And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, (Deuteronomy 10:12), and 1 Kings 9:33And the Lord said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. (1 Kings 9:3), that He will never take His eyes off Palestine. Now the activity of faith always hangs upon this point of view of God. And this knowledge of God's thoughts is the power of service in the church. God keeps His sheep always; that is to say, He always loves them. If I see one of these sheep wander, it is very sorrowful; and looking at it with man's judgment only, one might be inclined to abandon it; but remembering that it is a sheep, I act towards it as God thinks of it: that is, faith takes up the thoughts of God as to the objects of His love.
As far as the world is concerned, Jerusalem is nothing; it is a city trodden down, with neither commerce nor riches nor aught else. Superstition is established there on the sepulcher of the Lord. It is true, indeed, that the kings of the earth are beginning to look that way, because providence is leading in that direction; but as for God, He ever thinks of it; it is always His house, His city. His eyes and His heart are there continually. Now faith understands this.
And what was Daniel's position? He was a captive among the Chaldeans at Babylon; but Palestine was for him the pleasant land. His captivity takes off nothing from its interest. It was a very small province of an immense empire, almost unknown in the empire, so small was it in comparison. But to God it was everything. His purposes were ever towards it.
" The little horn waxed exceeding great towards... the pleasant land." We shall never understand the Old Testament prophecies, if we do not see two things. First, the thoughts of God are upon the glory of Christ, who, on His re-appearance, will reign over the earth. If this thought be not kept in view, whilst considering the details and events of Scripture, nothing will be understood: for God will and does make all the events of the world work together to that end. Secondly, we shall equally fail in understanding prophecy if we forget that the Jews are the habitual object of the thoughts of God; for, although He cannot recognize them for the moment, as being under His chastening hand, they are nevertheless still His people; for " the gifts and calling of God are without repentance " (Rom. 2:2929But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:29)); and, however we may apply this assertion to the church-for it is true of every one who is possessor of divine life-yet the context shows that the Jews are meant, who, although supplanted during their judicial blindness by the church on earth (the Gentile dispensation), yet will by and by be re-established in all their privileges.
When we have once laid hold on these two thoughts-that Christ is the aim and end of all the counsels of God, and that the Jews are the object of His counsels here below—there are a multitude of expressions that become easy of apprehension. For example, " the pleasant land " is the land of the Jews nothing ennobles before God but His gifts and vocation. And who are the people and land which He has chosen? No other than the land and the people which He promised to Abraham (Gen. 15), and which Christ, as the Seed of Abraham, will inherit, together with Israel, who are the people whom God has chosen.
" And it [the 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 " (v. to). There is an alteration in the next verse, to which I must here draw your attention, as it relates to a matter of no little importance, viz., the complete destruction of the worship of God at Jerusalem. If we were meditating on doctrines connected with salvation, I would not trouble you with questions of criticism; but I venture to do so here, as we are occupied with the intelligence of Scripture, and much is, in this instance, dependent on a just translation of verse 11, the main correction of which is afforded by the margin of the English translation. I give what I believe to be correct. " And he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and from him (the prince of the host) the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down, and a certain time of distress was appointed to the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression."
All this I should, moreover, put in parenthesis. The material change is that the taking away the daily sacrifice is not attributed to this little horn. The actings of the little horn are resumed after the word " transgression." " And it cast down the truth to the ground," etc.
In the actings, then, of the little horn it is not a question of uttering blasphemy and exalting itself against God, but of something very definite and precise: " it waxed great even to the host of heaven." It attacks those who, in those days, are there-the Jews who have a place around their chief (that is, those who in the moral heaven surround the throne of God); I judge it to mean the priests and heads among the Jews at Jerusalem, or such as God owns there. Observe God's estimate of things. He attaches more importance to the priests and governors among this poor people, than to anything else which the beast has been doing in the world. He lifted himself up " even to the host of heaven." It is infinitely more dangerous to meddle with things that belong to God, and things upon which God looks-to endeavor to efface His glory, all tarnished though it may be in our hands, than to overturn or to found empires, or to achieve the greatest victories (although God in His providence may superintend these events). The little horn might overthrow nations; but to say there should be no worship of God was an event far more serious: it was to destroy the only link which made it possible for God to recognize the state of things on the earth.
Such, then, is the special conduct of this little horn. It magnifies itself even to the host of heaven, and casts down a part of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamps on them. At the end, he who fills the antitypical place of this little horn exalts himself even so as to rise up against the prince of the host. He aims even at Him who is the true head of all things. Those who were at Jerusalem in such a place represented God, whilst Christ will soon be manifested as the true prince of the host. God further permits that the daily sacrifice should be taken away from this prince. We see therefore who is this Prince. It is the Lord. The sacrifice is taken away from Him, and the place of His sanctuary cast down, in this time of terror.
God calls His house at Jerusalem the place of His sanctuary, the sanctuary of Christ. He was and is always the God of the Jews. It is not a simple treading down of the people by the permission of God, as chastisement on account of their sins; but that it should be so, the temple is allowed to be cast down, as indeed it was at the time of the captivity of Babylon; and this must be the case, in order that God may show that He has completely abandoned His people to the fruit of their ways. While He owns His honor there, He must stand up in their defense, though He chastise; but if that be destroyed, and their city prostrate, then He leaves them indeed to the matured fruit of their sins, though He may still have the intention of bringing them back.
One might have supposed it impossible that His fixed habitation should be cast down; but the Spirit of God puts these facts in contrast, that we may see that the things which God Himself had established and preserved for centuries, He abandons, whilst still calling them His own. " The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." But He overturns everything that He has set as a witness, in the place which He has chosen for His dwelling, and breaks His bonds with the people, whilst still saying (Lam. 2:6, 76And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest. 7The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the Lord, as in the day of a solemn feast. (Lamentations 2:6‑7)), that they are His tabernacle, His place of assembly, His altar, and His sanctuary. Because of the unfaithfulness of the people, God no longer allows the worship which should have been offered to Him, and by permitting the daily sacrifice to be taken away, the visible and exterior link between Himself and the people is broken, and all that manifests His favor in the world-His house and worship-is set aside.
Verse 13. " Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said to 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? " The question is about the length of the time of affliction. The thoughts of the inquirer are not upon the exploits of the little horn, but about the desolation of the Jewish worship and temple. This distinction is important. I do not say that such desolations do not announce the last days; only these two things are distinct, viz., the conduct of the little horn, and the desolation of the temple. In the explanation given in the course of the chapter concerning the end of the indignation, there is nothing on the subject of worship; it refers only to circumstances concerning the king of fierce countenance, understanding dark sentences, without speaking of the temple. And lastly, there is not a word said that it is this little horn who takes away the daily sacrifice.
This answer precedes and is distinct from the interpretation given to Daniel of the little horn. It is possible that in the history, the little horn may have done all these things (allowing Antiochus Epiphanes to have been the type), but the Holy Spirit does not use them all when He speaks of what is to fill up the picture of the end.
Verse 14. " And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." We shall be helped in the consideration of these verses by recurring to verse to. " It waxed great... it cast down some of the host... and stamped upon them "; and in verse 12 we again find the expression, " It cast down the truth to the ground." Now between these two expressions all is in parenthesis, that is, the whole of verse 11 and a part of verse 12. " It cast down the truth to the ground " is the conduct of this horn in the last days, of which we have an explanation at the end. " So he [Gabriel] came near where I stood " (v. 17). " And 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 " (v. 19). The word " indignation " is often found in the prophecies, and is particularly mentioned in Isaiah 1o. Iniquity had ripened, and its chastisement had begun in the days of the faithless successor of David, Ahaz. It went on increasing. The Jews would not repent, and the hand of the Lord was heavier upon them; and will continue (see Isaiah io: 5, 8, then 12, 17, 21, 25) until the people shall return to Him who smote them.
It began comparatively lightly with the attacks of the Syrians, and the loss of the provinces; to these succeeded the conquests of the Babylonians; after that, the captivity; but the Jews would not repent at these judgments. Afterward God sent them His Son; you know how they treated Him. When they shall be again in their land, they will give themselves over to idolatry, and will receive Antichrist instead of Christ. At last, the abomination of desolation will be set up, until Christ Himself shall destroy the enemies of the people, and then the indignation will be accomplished. This time of indignation consists in the people being abandoned by God to the power of their enemies more or less; but that which is specially called " the indignation " is the attacks to which the Jews, on account of their sins, are subjected in the last days-the days of Antichrist. I do not say that Antichrist is the indignation; but the Jews are delivered to the instruments of the indignation of God on account of their relationship with him. God has determined its duration beforehand. (Compare Isa. 10:5-255O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. 6I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 7Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. 8For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? 9Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? 10As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; 11Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols? 12Wherefore 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. 13For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: 14And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. 15Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. 16Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. 17And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; 18And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth. 19And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them. 20And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. 22For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. 23For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land. 24Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt. 25For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction. (Isaiah 10:5‑25).)
Dan. 8:22And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai. (Daniel 8:2)o-23. " 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." I have no doubt, dear friends, that the type was the king of the Syrians-the king of the race of the Seleucidæ; but it is quite certain that this was not the end of the indignation; and, in the explanation which Daniel gives, he confines himself to what the antitype will do at the time of the end (v. i7)-the end of the indignation against the Jews (v. 19). We must put the church altogether on one side in this case: it is a question of the Jews in the latter days, at the end of the indignation.
" In the latter time [v. 23] of their kingdom [namely, of the kings who divided the Greek empire]... a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up." These kingdoms, then, must be re-established; there will again be the king of the south and the king of the north. Turkey in Asia, at this moment, embraces the territory of the king of the north, and Egypt that of the king of the south.
They must reappear as two kingdoms. We must apply this prophecy to that which is called " the end," " the time of the end "; that is, the end of the ways of God towards the Jews" the end of the age," as a general term. Egypt will then be on the scene, but particularly the king of the north, whoever may then possess that dignity.
An important fact in the accomplishment of prophecy in the latter day is, not only the return of the Jews to their land, but that, being found there, their wickedness will still increase. Those words of the Savior will be accomplished in them, " If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive," John 5:4343I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. (John 5:43). And again, " when the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation," Matt. 12:43-4543When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:43‑45). That is, the Jews having returned to their land, the wicked spirit, the spirit of idolatry which had left them (for there was no idolatry at the time of Jesus Christ), enters into his house, empty, swept, and prepared, and brings with him seven other impure spirits, and the last state of the nation shall be infinitely worse than the first. This may be true of others, but the Savior applies the passage to the Jews; " Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation." Thus " the transgressors will have come to the full," the transgression of the Jews against Jehovah will be at its height. It will be, speaking generally, the end of the age, and particularly the end of those four monarchies of the divided empire of Alexander; the Jews having become absolutely apostate, and in rebellion against God-not only as seen in their present condition, but much worse, having also returned to their land. And this scene will be in Palestine, and with a king out of one of the Greek monarchies, of whom the king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes, has certainly been a type.
Verse 23. " And... a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up." He will not only have force of arms, but also a spirit of wisdom, so as to be able to explain or interpret enigmas, a sort of prophet (though not, of course, in a good sense), who expounds profound and mysterious things. He acts by a deceitful and penetrating spirit, and in this way, upon the Jewish nation, as much as by his arms.
Verse 24. " His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power." He will be a king in dependence upon some other potentate-strong, but not entirely by his own force. " And he shall destroy the mighty and the holy people." Notwithstanding their state of perfidy and rebellion collectively, the Jews are, to the prophet, the holy people.
Verse 25. " 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, it will not be by force of arms, but he will deal with the Jews in the way of peace; and by penetration and subtlety, as a kind of rabbi, he will exercise much influence over the Jewish nation.
Finally, " He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand." Christ is the Prince of princes-" the prince of the host." This king, then, will not only overthrow many Jews, but, at the same time, will obtain immense influence over the nation; and, setting himself against the Prince of princes, he will be destroyed without hand.
You will observe that in this explanation of the conduct of the little horn, the daily sacrifice is not mentioned, its taking away is not attributed to him; and thus we perceive the importance of the correction of verse 11. He oppresses the Jews, and triumphs over them by the subtility of his spirit; he will destroy many by peace and prosperity. This is the account of a power which emanates from the Greek monarchy in the east, one who will act in the midst of the Jewish people, and who will be destroyed because he exalts himself against Christ at the end. So much for his locality, his conduct, and his end. The only mention that Daniel makes of the daily sacrifice and of the sanctuary, is in the last two verses. " And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true."
A single remark will suffice concerning the calculations of dates that have been made; I have made them myself, and I have taken all possible pains to resolve that of the " two thousand three hundred days " (v. 14), so that I do not mean it as condemning others, when I avow that I do not think they can be counted as years, and I am inclined to believe that these days were accomplished of old. But, in any case, if dates are to be assigned, we must remember that the subject is the Jews and Jerusalem, and these dates must therefore be applied to the Jews and Jerusalem, and not to the affairs of Christendom.
There may be analogous circumstances in Christendom, because the mystery of iniquity has already set in, for although the wicked one has not yet been revealed, his principles and his pride are found in its developments, etc.; but if we are to speak with exactness, and to ask if these things have been precisely accomplished, then we must apply these passages to Jerusalem and the Jews, namely, to what is to occur at the end of the indignation. Now certainly the end of the indignation has not yet happened.
In conclusion, the subject of this lecture is one with which we may appear to have but little concern. The other little horn has more connection with us, because it belongs to the last beast; and we have to do with it, as living in those countries which will come under its dominion, as France, England, etc. (which formed a part of the Roman empire); and also, as being where Christianity has been developed, during the existence of this last beast; whereas we are not in the territory of the little horn spoken of in this lecture. But if it is important on the one hand to avoid the evil which is about to appear in the west, in the very midst of the circumstances in which we are placed; on the other hand, the necessity of doing so tends to pervert our judgment; for we are liable to attach a great importance to ourselves, and to suppose that we possess the whole scope of Scripture, whereas God, as far as regards the possession and promises of this world, has given the Jew a much larger place than ourselves. Nevertheless, we perceive at the close that our history again enters into what so much interests us, namely, the counsels of God as to His Christ; for the last thing which we see, in the great events which are to take place, is this little horn lifting up himself against the Lord of lords; and before this world can be blessed, it is necessary that the Lord should break this little horn, in order that under His own rule the blessings of peace may come upon all.